Archives for posts with tag: novel adaptation

A discussion of the film adaptation’s flaws and merits, the novel’s relative relevancy or quaintness, and how Rand’s ideas might have been updated for audiences of today so as to address problems arguably more pressing than Stalinist central planning.

To take in Baz Luhrmann’s flamboyant adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is to experience a mingled frustration, pity, awe, amusement, bewilderment, and regret.  The contents of the novel are among the ingredients of this ambitious and idiosyncratic film, which displays a high degree of fidelity with respect to the choice of imagery; but included, too, is a lot of consciously anachronistic pop music and tacky computer-generated manipulation of the visuals, so that The Great Gatsby is a film very nearly ruined in the post-production.  In particular, the floating digital monogram bookends and more than one disorienting sweep from one location into another are unkind on the viewer’s eyes.

The film is most clearly in its element when depicting the outrageous, outsized decadence and debauchery of the twenties.  The Great Gatsby‘s greatest asset, however, is definitely its cast, with nearly every actor conjuring into convincing life the characters as described in the novel.  Tobey Maguire, who even now retains his air of youthful naivete onscreen, could not be bettered as Nick Carraway; and Leonardo DiCaprio, who with his substantial and growing body of lowlife and criminal parts, brings a handsome but soiled baggage to the showcase role of Gatsby, is a genius bit of casting; while fresh-faced Carey Mulligan is absolutely Daisy Buchanan and Joel Edgerton is suitably icy as her philandering husband Tom.  Jack Clayton’s 1974 film remains a stronger and more polished effort overall, but the charms of Luhrmann’s new vision are undeniable.

3.5 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Great Gatsby is:

7. Anti-Christian/anti-gun.  Loser mechanic George Wilson (Jason Clarke) is the film’s representative Christian, whose faith in God naturally inspires him to commit a murder out of a sense of divine vengeance after his wife is killed.

6. Arguably feminist.  Daisy reflects with sadness that the best thing for a girl to be is a fool, a suggestion that a woman’s position in her era and at her social level was an unenviable lot when viewed with scrutiny.  Taken at face value, however, the line could also be interpreted as piggishly anti-feminist.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  White speakeasy patrons watch black booty-shakers.  An overweight white man is glimpsed through a window with a black prostitute.

4. Anti-state.  Prohibition has backfired and made alcohol less expensive.  Police are in league with and even subservient to the gangsters whom Prohibition has made into powerful millionaires.

3. Drug-ambivalent.  Liquor flows copiously at Gatsby’s parties and Nick even pops a pill in a near-orgy scene, but immediate consequences are scarce.  The automobile fatality of the denouement is more the result of emotional stress than drinking, most probably.  Nick does end up in a sanatorium, however.

2. Anti-marriage.  Everybody cheats.

1. Class-conscious/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Unlikable Tom is the film’s representative bigot.  He recommends that everyone should read an unsettling book on The Rise of the Colored Empires.  (The irony here, of course, is that, in forecasting demographic decline and the consequent eclipse of the West, he is correct.)  Images of black poverty, toil, and subservience are frequently juxtaposed with white privilege and irresponsibility.  However, the depiction of gangster Meyer Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan), though lifted directly from Fitzgerald’s description, is likely to strike ADL types as anti-Semitic.

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