At the Movies: “The Great Gatsby”

Yesterday afternoon, my beau and I went to the show to see The Great Gatsby. I put aside all my preconceived thoughts on reviews I read, which mainly were negative – the music was “wrong,” the scenes were “over the top,” and the main character was a mere “child” in his first “After Six” tuxedo.

Surprisingly, I liked this version. My beau never read Gatsby, so he didn’t have an inkling what the story was about, and happily, he liked the film.

I enjoyed the costumes and hairstyles. They were authentic to the time (1922), for both men and women. I even caught the nail polish color on one flapper. It matched her green ensemble, and knowing that even back then, there were more colors of the rainbow in nail polish than just reds and oranges. Authentic, indeed.

The film’s music did have the modern rap style in it, although it was in short snippets and made sense to the scenes. Although I could hear it, it didn’t overtake the action, nor distract me. There were a few period works, namely “Rhapsody in Blue” during one of the ostentatious party scenes. Since this film took place in 1922, “Rhapsody in Blue” could not have been played at that party because it was published in 1924; but then, there wasn’t rap music back then, so there you have it – artistic license.

I liked the illusion of a Cab Calloway-styled music conductor in one of the party scenes. They were short, clipped scenes, so one would have to know who Calloway was to catch the few frames the illusion was in.

In the scene where Jay and Daisy are flying recklessly across the bridge in his yellow Duesenberg, the camera focused for a minute on an open vehicle with several well-dressed, laughing and drinking blacks, who obviously had money because of the expensive car and well-appointed wardrobes. They even had a white chauffeur. My thoughts to this scene made me believe they were the illusion of the Harlem Renaissance literati, or perhaps bootleggers. Yes, not all bootleggers were white Italians during Prohibition.

The film followed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece very well, and for that I give high praises. I will, however, take issue with the actor who portrayed Gatsby. It was a horrible choice to place Leonardo DiCaprio in that role. He seemed very uncomfortable playing Gatsby, and in many, many scenes he seemed to be struggling with coming up with appropriate facial expressions to suit the mood. Either that or the guy needs a good dish of stewed prunes. Moreover, he tried so obviously to mimic Jack Nicholson, and – horrors! – he was mirroring Robert Redford who masterfully played the same role in 1974. No, DiCaprio wasn’t masculine enough to play Gatsby, nor was he believable.

The other actors and actresses were set right for their roles, and every one of them came across convincingly. I could feel their thoughts and through them; I got lost in the scenes.

Therefore, I liked this adaptation. Now, I don’t like it as much as the 1974 version with Redford and Mia Farrow. The 1948 version with Alan Ladd is currently unavailable. There was a 1925 version, but as I understand it, it’s a lost film.

It wasn’t the horrific film the reviews lead me to believe.

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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