Be sure to also check out Fenrir’s in-depth review of the film.
Starshine: Hello everyone! And welcome to another action-packed edition of Objection! This week we’ll be discussing the new Baz Luhrmann film, The Great Gatsby. As always I am Starshine.
Silverwolf: And I’m Silverwolf! Personally, I thought the film was great and have few complaints. My compatriot, as you’d expect, holds a different viewpoint.
Starshine: I do indeed. I thought it was an incredibly disappointing film and adaptation. While there are some things to be praised about it, I think it falls flat on its face.
Silverwolf: What do you think were some of the films biggest failings?
Starshine: It’s pacing is all over the place to start. The middle of the film slowly begins to drag, despite the desperate attempts of the movie to show flashy graphics and backgrounds to keep the audience’s attention. The film itself left me feeling nothing – not even anger. It places very little emotional depth in its characters except for Gatsby, and even he comes off as a paper cut out.
Silverwolf: Hm…I disagree with those points, but it’s probably easiest to dissect them one by one. I didn’t find the pace slowed at all throughout the movie. I feel like the middle was attempting to build towards the climax, which may have made it seem slow to some, but I’m not sure there would’ve been a more effective way to portray those scenes with Gatsby, Daisy, and Nick. It was also fairly true to the book, so at the very least it shows Luhrmann tried to stay true to the source material.
Starshine: I would disagree with that last point. Daisy is way more sympathetic than in the book. In fact, ask most high schoolers, they all hate Daisy. She comes off the way Gatsby sees her – a victim, a woman who could be happy if she could only listen to Gatsby, who is hopefully miserable in her marriage. But Daisy in the book is an airhead who does love Gatsby but doesn’t want to leave the life of money and prestige she has. She is indecisive and careless, doing as she pleases without worrying about anything. She is American royality, our Marie Anoinette – she’s not supposed to be the victim of the story, she is one of the villains.
Silverwolf: Really? Because I felt like Daisy did come off as a brat in the movie. She was very flighty, seemed to be taken in by Gatsby equally for who he is and for his vast wealth, and didn’t seem to do anything remotely positive or redeeming.
Starshine: She does come off as somewhat of a brat – she’s still plenty airy and frustrating but they play her off as the weak victim. She loves Gatsby but she’s trapped in a marriage, and her longing for a better life is cut off by said marriage. This was not what it was like in the book at all – Daisy didn’t need saving, Gatsby just thought she did.
Silverwolf: I suppose that’s true. I admit I haven’t read the book in six years, but from what I could recall Daisy (and all the characters for that matter) acted the way I remember them. Well, I seem to remember Myrtle being more annoying, but I suppose my memory may not be entirely correct.
Now, you said the movie left you feeling nothing at all? That’s hard for me to believe, but at the same time, should someone expect to leave this movie with some kind of feeling?
Starshine:The purpose of art, any art, be it a painting or film or book, should impart something to you. A feeling, a message, an idea, SOMETHING. But this film left sort of feeling like I had just spent two and a half hours watching an unfulfilling melodrama. I wasn’t angry or disappointed, or in awe of the cinematography or music. Even movies when I found boring always have something I took away or I admired, but this film left me with nothing.
Silverwolf: I agree, art should leave you with something, but not necessarily a feeling. At the very least, the movie made me think and was a visual treat. It may not have been as deeply profound as the book, but I feel it was a fairly accurate representation of a seminal novel.
Starshine: I disagree. The cinetography varied greatly for me. Some of the shots were magical, but the CGI house and party were over the top and kind of ugly, and not because it was gawdy. Not to mention the words on the screen didn’t have the same effect as they did in Moulin Rouge, where it was done a lot better. And I think it missed the entire point of the novel but I’d like to hear why you think its an accurate portrayal.
Silverwolf: All right. Obviously, I don’t think the movie was a perfect representation of the book, as no movie adaptation can perfectly mirror the original work. When it comes right down to it, essentially everything I remember from the novel, both the parts I liked and the parts I wasn’t fond of, were presented in this movie in a format I could enjoy. I felt like every actor was suited to the character he or she portrayed (even Toby MacGuire, who I usually find dull, worked as the necessarily dull Nick). I felt immeresed in the time period as I watched the movie, from the costumes to the dialogue to the set pieces. Oh, and I have to say I have a soft spot for classic cars, so the fact there were a decent number of driving scenes did nothing except increase the allure of the film.
Starshine: While all of that is true, including the keeping of many scenes which were important, the message of the book was mangled. The movie seems to be saying that the American dream is great, that Gatsby’s dream was great but was cut low by a selfish woman from an unforgiving society. The message of the book was that the American dream was poison, that it’s really a nightmare. “Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elation of men.” But that’s a hard thing to market to an American audience.
Silverwolf: Ah, but I thought you’d didn’t take anything away from the movie? That sounds like a message to me, even if it doesn’t click perfectly with the book. Anyway, I actually think the movie did show the dangers of the American Dream. Nick still discussed the fact that everyone he met during that Summer was essentially a phony scumbag only caring about themselves. Meanwhile, Gatsby’s quest to achieve the “perfect life” is ultimately what destroyed him, whether or not Daisy was there. For instance, had Daisy denied him but he’d lived, I think he would’ve become a broken man, albeit a living one.
Starshine: There’s a difference between knowing what the movie was trying to say and what you actually take away from the film. A three year old can draw something you know it supposed to be a cat but what you take away is that it looks like an alien. And that’s not what I think they were going from at all. But speaking of phonies, I’m kind of mad how they Holden-Caufielded Carraway to give the story narrative.
Silverwolf: All right, on that point we can agree. The whole part at the beginning where Nick’s descended into alcoholism and is with a therapist is unnecessary and felt overdramatic to me.
Starshine: Right? It also was a copy of Moulin Rouge. It just goes to remind us all that baz Luhrmann wants to be deep and artsy but his bag of tricks is severely limited. At least the music was okay at most points of the film.
I think its about time we wrap this up. Any last thoughts?
Silverwolf: Sure. I’ll actually offer two final pieces. The first is about the music: I actually found the inclusion of modern music the most jarring part of the film, but I can understand the reasons (both artistic and economic) that motivated that decision. Overall, I think this is a strong film that is worth checking out. If nothing else, it’s a visual masterpiece and that alone is worth the price of admission.
Starshine: I personally think that while some of a visuals are great, the film was a huge disappointment and is being way overhyped and I would recommend you save your money and watch it on Netflix. The only saving grace is the acting from DiCaprio and Edgerton (who played Tom).
Well that’s it for this week’s Objection! Join us next time when two writers duke it out and leave the arena with mutual respect for each other!