A few months back we talked about The Great Gatsby on our Podcast that we do with the Mormon Movie Guy. I hadn’t seen it yet, so I got to pick his brain a bit. Most of what I feared was true, but my mom recently purchased the Blu-Ray (even though we advised not to in our most recent episode) so I went over to watch it as a double date with my wife and parents. I always have an open mind when seeing a movie, contrary to a comment we will read in the next podcast episode.
Because this movie has been out for a bit, and most of you have probably already decided to see it or not I wanted to focus on three aspects of the film. It has been about 20 years since I read The Great Gatsby, but what I remember is that I didn’t like it. It has a choppy narrative and I had a hard time caring for the characters. This movie was a great adaptation of those impressions. Those story seemed to jump a lot. We are meant to see Gatsby through the eyes of Nick Carraway as his mystery slowly unfolds. It it is more like badly done origami. At one point Carraway gives expositional information about Gatsby’s past that he should have no reason to know. Some sections are told in great detail, then others are glossed over like an abridgment of a large volume book.
Secondly, being a Baz Luhrmann film, the cinematography is almost hyper realized. The special effects are done very well and don’t detract from the film. It makes everything large, grand, and a little but surreal.
The last aspect is the use of music. I am a big fan of score and the use of music in a film. You take some of the biggest films of all time; Star Wars, Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, they also have just as memorable movie scores. For the Great Gatsby soundtrack director Baz Luhrmann decided to updating things a bit with hip hop and rap music by Jay-Z, Beyonce, Will.I.Am, and other popular recording artists. It was a wreck! Then I realized that Jay-Z is an executive producer on the film. Romeo + Juliet worked with the music because it was an ageless story set in a modern age with modern music. Gatsby is still set in a historic age with modern music dropped in, in a way resembling a head on collision, where both intact pieces collide in a way to make both tragically unrecognizable. Jay-Z says that jazz was the hip hop of that era, but that doesn’t mean you can inner swap them.
There are a few songs that do the soundtrack credit. They take the lyrics of modern day hip hop songs, but replace the backing music with some horns and a snare in a bit of a jazz swing. The one that stands out is Beyonce’s Crazy in Love. I really wish they would have given that treatment to all the music. Not all the music is hip hop though.
There is some traditional jazz, and some classically scored music. There is even one scene where the climax to a party is a firework show set to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. It is particularly moving and it makes me sad the rest of the movie wasn’t given the same treatment. But I guess such music doesn’t boost album sales. It reminds me of the Elder Douglas L Callister quote, “If a young person grows up on a steady diet of hamburgers and french fries, he is not likely to become a gourmet. But the fault is not with fine food. He just grew up on something less. Some have grown up on a steady diet of musical french fries.”
This film seems to glorify drinking and partying. Although some people experience sad consequences, it does not do enough to overshadow the carefree lifestyle portrayed earlier in the film. There are some women in revealing clothing and scenes implying an infidelities including a scene where we hear the act occurring in the other room. (what pushed it from 4 to 3 stars) There is a scene of personal gun violence and reckless driving. Only a handful of PG and Religious obscenities.