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!

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4672That blasted green light! Gatsby clinging to it for dear life. Reading The Great Gatsby feels so awfully bittersweet. Fitzgerald’s talent as a writer is beyond words in my opinion and he’s quickly climbing the list of my most beloved authors. I’m shocked at how long it took me to reread Gatsby’s story since my introduction as a high school junior. I suppose I feared being disappointed. That somehow the past 11 or so years had jaded me too much to find Jay Gatsby a remarkable character. Thank the literary gods my fears have been put to rest and I can honestly say Fitzgerald’s crowing achievement will always hold a special place on my shelves. With the movie looming on the the not-so-distant horizon, I knew now would be the perfect time to revisit my old friend Nick as he told this short little tale of the slippery American Dream.

I’m fairly certain no one needs a serious synopsis. Jay Gatsby is a self-made man from humble origins who becomes this larger than life personification of the American Dream. Unfortunately, his own ideas of success and happiness are never obtained because the woman he loves – the incredibly vapid Daisy Buchanan – will never be his. No matter how shiny his house, how green his grass, or how deep his pockets.

My favorite writers all tend to have one thing in common – the ability to write something, even the ridiculously mundane, and make me drool while reading it. My heart pitter-patters at long, luscious prose far faster than a deftly plotted masterpiece. And while I can definitely appreciate both, beautiful words will always win. The Great Gatsby is just that – freakin’ beautiful words and full-bodied sentences. This very book and all of Fitzgerald’s other work demonstrates while I’ll never actually write anything myself. I could never even come close to his genius.

I’m swooning all over this blog post! So sorry, y’all. Let’s get back to business. What surprised me this time through was how short the novel is – how succinct. I remember agonizing over this narrative in high school only to fly through it as an adult. The novel suffers not at all from its brevity, but rather benefits from the swift pacing and nearly overnight downfall of this colossal man-giant. The book is one huge symbol and filled with literary technique. Quite literally, literary terminology leaks across the pages. I can understand why this would turn away some readers who prefer a more abstract rendering on existentialism, but I love this no-nonsense approach. It’s definitely a wonderful teaching tool and I easily grasp why The Great Gatsby is read so often in school. It’s also, hands-down, Fitzgerald’s most accessible story and the one I recommend unfamiliar readers begin with.

As far as the characters are concerned, they, admittedly, are mostly detestable. Daisy and Tom especially. But as John Green says in his crash course youtube video (I’ll link it below), the characters don’t have to be likeable to be interesting. What’s fascinating about Daisy is how a man like Gatsby could become so enraptured by her as to ruin his entire life. These people existed and still exist. We read about them in magazines and hold them high on gilded pedestals. Reading The Great Gatsby gives us a lens not just to view the 1920s Long Island elite, but to help us understand hero worship, idolatry, and celebrity which we all fall victim to at some point. Do the things to which we aspire, our own American Dreams, actually have any valuable substance or will we all end up face-down in a pool when our dreams come crashing (pun intended!) down around us?

I’m excited to see the film in May. While the casting has me scratching my head a bit, I do think Leonardo DiCaprio will be a great Gatsby. The vibrant cinematography will add an interesting juxtaposition to the somber realities of the movie’s end. I’ll be there opening night and hope you other bloggers will be as well so we can all share our experiences. The more the merrier, and this is one story that deserves all the attention!

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The Creation of Eve and an Update!

Okay.  So I’ve been missing again and have returned with yet another excuse.  This time I contracted the most intense illness I’ve had in years.  I seriously thought I was patient zero in the new pandemic that would destroy the world.  Thankfully, I’m feeling relatively back to normally which just means I was able to gorge myself on food again tonight.  I’ve lost 5 lbs. in 5 days so the calories were definitely welcome.

Right before the death disease kicked in, I hosted book club on Sunday and we discussed The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen (a local Atlanta author).  Eve tells the story of Sofonisba Anguissola (just call her Sofi), the first world renowned female painter of the Renaissance.  She is “hired” (more like bought) by King Felipe II of Spain (concurrent to Elizabeth’s rule in England during the 16th Century) to become one of his new child bride’s ladies and painting instructor.  Wackiness of the historical fiction variety then ensues.

I always feel like a fraud writing anything remotely critical about historical fiction as it’s not a genre I read often.  Several ladies in the Litwits adore historical fictional and they assured me this novel is of the highest class.  Our discussion was intense, lengthy, entertaining, smart, and stayed on topic the ENTIRE TIME.  For those in book clubs, I know you know how much of a feat that tends to be.  What really works with Cullen’s novel is the intricacies of the plot – the deceptions, gender roles, cattiness, historical fact/fiction, power/war, and so much more.  There are things that happen that aren’t fully left explained – as the reader you are allowed your own interpretation as to whether this particular character actually did this or didn’t do that which leads to great discussion and lots of theories.  Just a ton of fun for any discussion group.

The ladies and I talked for ages about women’s place in society and how their lives were never their own.  But we then had to admit that even men had their roles and places decided for them so no gender was actually free.  We also discussed at length how far medicine and sanitation had come in the past few hundred years.  This is a novel that will make you thankful everyday for your local pharmacy and indoor plumbing.

Of course, this novel isn’t perfect.  Several members had problems with how much Cullen downplayed the Spanish Inquisition.  For such a hugely terrible event, the Inquisition was hardly even mentioned.  Others thought King Felipe II was also portrayed a little lightly.  The novel makes you question whether he’s a good decent man or subtlety cruel when apparently it’s common knowledge he was a douche.  Personally, I hated that the book jacket professed the novel to be about Sofi, when really the story focused on the King, Queen, and the Court – Sofi barely even paints.  Yes, the novel is told from the first person perspective of Sofi through diary like entries, but they focus almost entirely on the Queen.  I wanted more Sofi.

So The Creation of Eve gets the Litwits seal of approval and our highest recommendations for fellow book clubs!  It has a fantastic afterword (might have been my favorite part) where Lynn Cullen goes into detail about what was fiction and what was fact.  She also details out what happened to the characters after her novel ends which was fun to read.  You’ll want to google Sofi’s paintings and other Renaissance art during the reading process – or just visit Italy!

Also, below I’ve posted the trailer for The Great Gatsby being released late this year.  It’s caused quite a stir!  What do you think?