Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

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We got early tickets to see Gatsby Thursday night. As y’all can imagine, I was ridiculously excited. The theater was packed with many people dressed up which was so much fun to watch. Unfortunately, our theater had many technical glitches and they never could get the curtains to open all the way. Thankfully, the viewing experience wasn’t really affected and we got free movie passes as a bonus. Win.

The movie itself felt a lot like attending the circus. That’s what I kept saying. That’s what my gut automatically felt – like we were in a giant, colorful bigtop with Gatsby as our ringleader. And I’m still not sure what to say beyond that. I’ve been mulling over my thoughts for quite some time and think I might not fully comprehend my feelings until I’ve had another viewing. But here’s the randomness that has crossed my mind.

All of the actors were enjoyable, but Leo, Edgerton, and Mulligan take the cake for me. I had heard that Mulligan’s Daisy was often overacted, but I really enjoyed her performance so that was a surprising positive. When all of our main characters were in a room together, the movie shined. When the film was concentrating on green screening everything, I totally lost interest and was completely taken out of the story. Perhaps the plastic, fake look of the green screen was supposed to be a commentary on the absurdity and frailness of Gatsby’s world, but it didn’t work for me at all.

And while I adore the soundtrack on its own, in the movie the music was often jarring. There’s one scene in particular that could have played out in any nineties rap video starring Biggie Smalls. Nothing about that says 1920s to me. My husband even leaned over and was like WTF? The costuming, makeup, and jewelry were gorgeous and so faithful to the time period. Loved seeing everyone all dolled up.

In the end, I think I liked it more than disliked it. However, I’m not sure I have any sort of emotional attachment to what I watched. The ridiculous over-the-top imagery really detracted from the emotional depth and character development. Everything felt more like a plastic production than a movie focused on the humanity (or lack thereof) of its characters and the idolization of the American Dream. I think this version of The Great Gatsby will attract fans not familiar with the book and a much younger target audience. Perhaps some viewers will even find the book through this movie which is always a great thing.

I definitely want to hear what y’all think! Let me know in the comments. So far, most people have been very mixed with their opinions. Some love it desperately, others find it trite and shallow. I think I’m still on the fence.

Bonus:

I loved the humor! So many hilarious moments played wonderfully by Leonardo DiCaprio!

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (VLOG!!)

So, I just realized that while I recorded a vlog reviewing Memoirs of a Geisha, I never actually reviewed it here on the old blog. SHAME! Anyway, I’m gonna post the video below for your viewing pleasure and skip the writing part. Because that seems like an appropriate Friday thing to do. But for those not inclined to watch me ramble on, here’s a short and sweet review of my own thoughts:

A BOOK FILLED WITH AWESOME. Richly layered, such amazing attention to detail, great sense of place. I want to read everything about geisha history and culture.

What A Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr

16106413Often, I choose review books that are outside of my comfort zone. I’m not sure why I do this, and I’m fairly certain it’s unfair to the books I select. But I just think that getting review books is a great way to try something new without making a financial investment. Plus, I get to alert my readers to new books they might be very interested in. So I don’t feel too guilty at the end of the day.

For the above reasons, I agreed to read and review Lehr’s novel which falls somewhere in the mystery/thriller category – a genre I don’t often read. We begin the story amid a car crash in the Santa Monica Mountains. Eighteen months later, Michelle is finally leaving the hospital to return to her life as mother, wife, and Hollywood producer. Her brain injury was so severe she had to relearn how to walk, talk, and still doesn’t have many memories of that fatal day. What she discovers upon arriving home is that things aren’t as she left them. Her teenage daughter’s missing, a boy is dead, and her husband has grown distant. Oh, and she’s being sued for negligence.

Lehr’s story revolves around Michelle’s desperate search for her daughter amid the chaos that is now her life. The plot is fast-paced and easy to get lost in. There are characters to both love and hate. And the reading experience is overall enjoyable even if the ending is somewhat cliched and predictable. I found Michelle to be a compelling protagonist, particularly in her role as mother. She’s not this pristine, heroic motherly character at all. She’s dirty, rude, complex, and at times hard to root for. Michelle often alienates the rest of her family in her search for Nikki and her motivations can be hard to sympathize with. But I appreciated this because it felt more genuine to me than some squeaky clean suburban housewife. In fact, Lehr does a wonderful job of painting a wide variety of mothers in her story. None of them are perfect, but all of them are people you feel like actually exist.

As far as the writing is concerned, I’m a bit torn. Lehr has talent and writes some really beautiful sentences that have no business being in such a plot-driven novel. So that was nice. At the same time, I felt that the flow was often clunky – like certain exposition was edited out leaving the narrative choppy. I often found myself rereading sections because I felt as if I had missed something. Since I was reading an uncorrected proof, these issues might have been resolved before publication. I also didn’t feel like the men were drawn as well as the female characters. The leading men struck me as very stereotypical with no real development. Her husband was a douche.

I’d recommend What A Mother Knows to anyone who enjoys mystery, memory loss dramas or really well-crafted mothers who are actual human beings. If you aren’t a huge fan of these novels, I’m not sure anything here will change your mind. A good beach read for the upcoming summer months and perhaps a book that would garner some good discussion during a book club meeting. I can just see everyone arguing over whether or not Michelle was a likable mother!

Special thanks to Sourcebooks for the book in exchange for my honest review!

Monday Salon

600859_10102150884277510_1820388992_nA whirlwind weekend! Another wedding in the books and a lovely Sunday spent exploring our city! I’m choosing to ignore the never ending rain. Saturday night we attended a fancy pants wedding of some former co-workers so it was like one huge reunion. Plus an open bar. Sunday afternoon we went to the Atlanta History Center which is essentially a museum of all things Atlanta. Love being a tourist in my own city! Plus, their gift shop was filled with amazing books. It took me forever to choose which one to buy, but I eventually settled on the tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. Such a beautiful edition published by the Beehive Press of Savannah. 

This week I’m hoping to hear back from the company I interviewed with last week. After speaking to the two ladies I’d be working with, I am so excited about the job and think this might be my dream position in the accounting world. I’m also hoping to jump back on the exercise bandwagon. Then there’s all the house cleaning, maybe some lounging in the sun, and lots of reading, obviously.

What else am I up to? Let’s see. Went to watch Iron Man 3 Thursday night with the Hubs. We enjoyed the movie. Jimmy loves any action film. He gets so angry with me if I try to discuss character development or plot in regards to his summer popcorn flicks. Robert Downey Jr. is just a joy to watch. Now the countdown to The Great Gatsby is officially on and I cannot wait! I’ve also been listening to some book podcasts recently. I stumbled upon one called Literary Disco which was created by none other than Rider Strong! Loving it.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

66559So much hype has surrounded Gillian Flynn’s name recently. I purposefully avoided reading Gone Girl because I didn’t want my expectations to overshadow the reading experience. So I decided to start with her first novel, Sharp Objects, and read my way forward. My only real expectation for Flynn’s debut was that the subject matter would be dark – very dark. Which it was. Some of those images are permanently etched into my brain.

Camille Preaker is a journalist for a little read paper in Chicago. Her editor assigns her the job of reporting on two murders in small town Missouri, Camille’s hometown. In addition to discovering the nasty truth behind the grizzly murders of the two young girls, Camille must also come to terms with her own dark past if she ever hopes to move forward and live any sort of normal life. Her family is also batshit bonkers.

The only word that keeps coming to mind is disturbing. Where does Flynn get her ideas from? The creepiness in her novel doesn’t feel like fiction – her gritty imagery feels REAL. Real in a way I can’t honestly describe, but it gets up under your skin and lives there. She’ll lure you in with simple violence and then smack you across the face with visceral shock value. Her characters are layered, complex, and deeply insane. It’s like she’s cut humanity open and allowed the blackened guts of evil to splatter grotesquely at her readers’ feet. I loved the entire experience of Sharp Objects which makes me wonder about my own sanity.

What works most for me is Camille. She’s a strong protagonist – a fighter, a survivor. Her psychological damage is obvious and subtle all at once. She’s not someone you could be friends with, but she’s someone you can come to respect and feel deeply for. Flynn writes her flawlessly and I wonder just how much of Camille resembles Flynn. She just seems to know her subject matter so well.

The only real complaint I have is that the end seemed sort of rushed and oddly choppy. Not a huge problem though because most of the novel flowed well and the pages turned very quickly. I also wouldn’t recommend this novel to everyone because the subject matter is intense, the imagery cringe-worthy, and the story not at all for the faint of heart. But if you enjoy a great psychologically disturbing, dark and twisty story – give this one a try!

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

Pain-Parties-WorkThat’s a long title. But the book itself is rather short and fantastic. It’s a non-fiction new release that focuses on Sylvia Plath’s summer internship with Mademoiselle magazine and the culture of the early fifties. The novel is comprised of pictures, fashion tidbits, and anecdotes from Sylvia’s diaries as well as the other ladies who interned alongside her. You also get a brief synopsis of Plath’s short life before and after her internship to give you a fuller picture of her trials and tribulations.

Winder’s purpose in writing this novel seems to be showcasing a Sylvia Plath in opposition to the typical mythology. Instead of a bleak, suicidal existence, we are privy to a 20 year old girl out living life to its fullest. Bright red lipstick, a vibrant dating life, and a vivaciousness that’s hard to imagine in someone who will attempt suicide for the first time in a few short months. Winder proves that Plath is so much more dynamic and so much more interesting than her death scene. I loved that and was thankful to see her so thoroughly fleshed out.

Having read The Bell Jar several times, I was surprisingly shocked to see just how autobiographical a character Esther was. In so many ways, Winder’s novel and Plath’s novel are like twin sisters. I think reading these books back-to-back might be a very fascinating authorial case study into the life of such a prolific human being. I can also see Pain, Parties, Work being a successful educational text – not just because of its academic qualities, but also because the book is just so dang readable. I think high schoolers and college kids alike would eat this up.

I’d recommend this look into Sylvia’s young adulthood to anyone who has ever been even remotely interested in Plath’s life, her writing, or even just the culture of the 1950s – particularly the feminine culture. I think this book could easily be read as a history of a certain time period and interest those readers who aren’t even invested in Plath herself. A great addition to any non-fiction collection. A short work that’s so accessible to any reader or even a non-reader. I’ll definitely be seeking out a finished copy for my permanent shelves!

Bonus:

Sylvia loved New York City and that love shines through here! I loved reading about the city in 1953. You really feel like you’re walking the streets alongside Sylvia and all her friends.

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Thank you so much to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a copy of the book in return for my honest review! Please visit the TLC website for other tour stops!

About the Author:

Elizabeth-WinderElizabeth Winder is also the author of a poetry collection. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Review, the Antioch Review, American Letters, and other publications. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University.

 

 

 

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