Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Great Gasp! Be

Having never ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” I had no lost-in-translation angst when viewing and reviewing the latest film by Baz Luhrmann, the director from Down Under And (Way) Over The Top. His The Great Gatsby was a fabulous, uneven triumph that felt a bit too long at times. I can’t help but think it’s Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Gatsby, with New York taking over Paris.

For me the acting was the film’s strongest point. Like with George Clooney, I don’t quite “get” Leonardo DiCaprio’s appeal, even though I can objectively say he’s a cutie pie in William Shakespeare’s Romeo+Juliet, Titanic, even The Departed and Inception. It was only here as Jay Gatsby that his looks work so well to his character’s favor; Leo’s face has grown more handsomely solid with age yet retains that baby-faced appeal that makes one believe that Gatsby is still clinging to an innocent (or perhaps immature) hope that he can win his ladylove back. Joel Edgerton is electric onscreen, his Tom Buchanan a simmering mix of desire and danger. Tobey Maguire lends a melancholy tone as the outsider Nick Carraway. And Carey Mulligan is lovely and heartbreaking as Daisy, the woman caught between Gatsby and Buchanan.

Luhrmann piles on his usual bag of excesses, from the mix-and-match soundtrack to the stunning and gaudy production design, all designed for maximum wows and gasps. Personally I find it thrilling when an artist willfully tosses everything and the kitchen sink to make a point, but sometimes I wonder if, in Luhrmann’s case, excess is his point. If Michael Bay is to explosions as J.J. Abrams is to lens flare, then Baz Luhrmann hasn’t met a shiny, shimmering splendid that he didn’t like.

By the way, I know that Mr. Luhrmann is married with two kids. But if someone were to ask me, “Is he gay?” my Exhibit A would be the scene that reveals Daisy for the first time. The camera enters a room in exquisite slow-mo; there’s a couch in the foreground, and white, gossamer curtains billowing all around the room. If it were a Michael Bay film, there will be no curtains; instead, leaves will be blown in from the balcony in slow-mo. If it were a John Woo film, aside from the slow-mo leaves there will be a white dove or two flying in (or out) of the room. But this is a Baz Luhrmann film, thus the gossamer curtains.

I dare Joel Schumacher to top that.

No comments: