Follow-up Question of the Week: Favorite FICTIONAL biopics?

Hello everyone! As I’m still working on my review of Lee Daniels’ The Butler that’ll be up tomorrow, biopics are still on my mind this week. Thanks to Chris from Terry Malloy Pigeon Coop and Nick from Cinematic Katzenjammer for bringing up this topic on the comments of yesterday’s post on favorite biopics.

When I did my post, I excluded documentaries from the discussion but I didn’t think of fictional biopics, which are actually made quite often in Hollywood. I do think it’s a separate sub-genre than straight biopics that are based on real life individuals. Nick brought up Forrest Gump, in which Tom Hanks winning an Oscar for playing the fictitious protagonist, and Big Fish in which Albert Finney & Ewan McGregor plays a fantastical character Ed Bloom. I’d think that The Great Gatsby is a fictional biopic on a larger-than-life character Jay Gatsby.

FictionalBiopics

Of course I can’t leave out my own personal favorite, Ben-Hur. Perhaps one of the most epic of all fictional biopics, shrewdly mixing the fictitious Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur with historical events, i.e. Christ’s crucifixion. As far as music-themed ones, you might consider Velvet Goldmine a fictional musical biopic as the character Brian Slade is based on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. It’s a bizarre and amusing film for fans of Christian Bale and Ewan McGregor, and a must for Bowie fans too naturally.


So for today’s question, what’s your favorite FICTIONAL BIOPIC(s)?

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May Movie Watching Recap & Movie of the Month

MayRecap
Can’t believe it’s June already! Summer is finally here, yay! Well, the temp isn’t exactly Summer-y yet here, but I have to think positive that Summer weather IS indeed on its way [sigh] Well, it’s been kind of an uneventful month for movie watching, but I think y’all know June is a BIG month for me ;)

Now, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from this past month:

New-to-me Films Watched:

The Great Gatsby

GreatGatsby

Jack Reacher

JackReacher

Bernie

Bernie

Muriel’s Wedding

MurielsWedding

The Cabin in the Woods

CabinIntheWoods

Star Trek Into Darkness

StarTrekIntoDarkness

William Shatner’s The Captains

TheCaptainsDoc

Epic

Epic

Fast & Furious 6

FastFurious6

Now You See Me

NowYouSeeMe

The Kid with a Bike

KidwithaBike

It’s been a slow month for Blu-ray/Netflix watching. I actually didn’t have even a single movie rewatch all month, and also didn’t get around to watching any classic movie :( It’s slow on TV watching too, though I did watch some Frasier episodes (LOVE that show) but that’s about it! I wish the old NBC series Wings were on Netflix, that was one of my favorite shows in the 90s. Stay tuned for mini reviews of some of the movies I saw this past month, and of course, more Man of Steel countdown posts :D


Movie of the Month:

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Now, I’m not saying this is THE best film I saw in May, but in terms of re-watchability, this one would probably take the cake. It’s also the only movie I’d likely get on Blu-ray.


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in May?

FlixChatter Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

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When I first heard about Baz Luhrmann‘s project to bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel to life, I have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the idea. Then I read that he was going to do the movie in 3D, which prompted an eye-rolling reaction and a shrug. I mean, what could we possibly gain from setting the story in friggin’ 3D?? Heh, as if his style wasn’t over the top enough. But I was willing to give Baz the benefit of the doubt, after all, I adore Moulin Rouge! and to some degree his version of Romeo + Juliet.  I feel that the anachronism and grandiose style worked for both films. Thus, going into this film, the question isn’t whether or not it’ll be style-over-substance, but how much of Baz’s signature style is going to get in the way of this classic story.

I have to preface this review with a confession that I have NOT read the book, so I can’t say whether this is a faithful adaptation or not. I downloaded the preview to my Kindle six months ago with the plan to read it before the movie is out, alas I haven’t got around to it. But many of you who had to read this in high school literature class know the gist:

Set during the roaring 20s, the story centers on the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island. Just like the book, the story is told from the point of view of a Midwestern-born Yale grad Nick Carraway who rents a small house next door to Gatsby as he commutes to his job as a bond salesman in NYC.

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The film starts off stylishly of course, right from the very second the Art Deco frame you’ve seen on all the posters come on screen to reveal the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s house just across from Gatsby’s mansion. For the first 20 min or so, we never see our protagonist, but Mr. Gatsby is featured prominently through Nick’s story to his therapist at the sanitarium that he’s checked himself into. This framing device made me, the audience, feel even more eager to meet Mr. Gatsby, especially to find out just what made Nick so enamored by this character and just what the heck happened that Summer of 1922.

To say the parties at the Gatsby are wildly lavish is a giant understatement. I’ve never seen anything like it, even from Baz himself. Most of the guests aren’t even invited but the booze, confetti and fireworks are never in short supply in this loud and crazy carnival-like soiree. I feel like I was living vicariously though Nick as he tries to wiggle through the crowd to find the elusive host. I quite like the way Gatsby was introduced, as there’s been a pretty effective built-up until that moment.

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Just like Gatsby’s party, the film has the undeniably power to enthrall and mesmerize with its opulent extravagance, but at the same time it’s so overwhelming and even headache-inducing. I know I expected the ‘more-is-more’ style from Baz, but he seems to have upped the ante with this one. Perhaps Baz is trying to illustrate just how huge a contrast is between the festive and seemingly-blissful exterior of Gatsby’s life with that of his inner turmoil. The bigger the parties, the emptier Gatsby life is. They say money doesn’t buy happiness. Well, it’s never rings truer than in Gatsby’s life.

The quiet(er) moments in this film come few and far in between, but even when they arrive, I still haven’t quite recovered from the dizzying fracas. One of those moments is when Gatsby is with his lost love Daisy, whom he fell for five years ago and the one he’s been trying to win back ever since. Their reunion scene is actually one of the highlights for me just because it’s so hilarious. Perhaps the lightest segment of the whole film, as the film turns progressively darker. That scene is also one of the most revealing of Gatsby’s character, as beneath of that massive success and wealth, he is such a broken man with such a huge insecurity complex and almost paralyzing self-doubt. At the same time, Gatsby is a man of hope, which is something that Nick admires but also cautions him for.

Carraway: “You can’t repeat the past.”
Gatsby: “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”

There is a fine line between hope and delusion, and Gatsby hasn’t the faintest clue where to draw it. But it’s obvious that his “hope” is more of an illusion. And so is the romance between him and Daisy. Is he in love with Daisy the woman or the idea of being with her? Unlike the romance in Moulin Rouge! where I really feel the heart-wrenching connection between Christian and Satine, I don’t quite feel that with Gatsby and Daisy. Whether that’s intentional or not I don’t know, but I think that becomes a detriment to the story for me as beneath all that longing look and love-struck poetry, mislaid a beating heart. Therein lies the crux of this film adaptation. Perhaps it’s an inherent problem that is least likely to be overcome by most filmmakers, least of whom Baz Luhrmann.

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It’s not entirely vapid however, I actually think the bromance (if you want to even call it that) between Gatsby and Carraway speaks to me more than the doomed romance. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire – who are apparently BFFs in real life – have an effortless chemistry and their mutual fondness and respect is palpable. Which brings me to the performances. The scene of just the two of them in the opulent but desolate Gatsby estate is the most heart-wrenching.

I think DiCaprio is quite convincing as Gatsby, I think he embodies the character well and does what he could with the material given. I can’t help but being reminded of his other roles such as in Titanic, Romeo + Juliet and also as Howard Hughes in The Aviator during one particularly intense scene. I think Leo is a talented actor but not exactly a chameleon. Maguire is perfectly cast as Carraway, he definitely projects that naive, Midwestern sensibility and warmth that’s perfect for the role. Now, Carey Mulligan who has impressed me in other roles is pretty good as Daisy, but she doesn’t quite jump off the screen as I expected. I mean she’s believable as someone Gatsby would fall head over heels in love with, but she just isn’t as memorable here somehow.

Clockwise from top left: Edgerton, Debicki, Bachchan, Fisher & Clarke

Clockwise from top left: Edgerton, Debicki, Bachchan, Fisher & Clarke

On the other hand, Elizabeth Debicki as the amateur golfer Jordan Baker might prove to be the Aussie actress’ breakthrough role. Fellow Aussies Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke (who were both in Zero Dark Thirty, but the length of screen time is reversed as Clarke has a smaller role here) also turned in memorable supporting turn, as well as yet another Aussie Isla Fisher. It’s inspired casting to have veteran Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan as the Jewish businessman (most likely a kingpin) and gambler Meyer Wolfshiem. He definitely made an impression despite his short screen time.

Visually speaking, this is definitely a feast for the eyes. Baz is no stranger to creating a fantastical escapist entertainment with spectacular set design, beautiful costumes, and cinematography. Baz’s own wife and frequent collaborator Catherine Martin won an Oscar for Best Art Direction for Moulin Rouge! and she might nab some nominations for this one as well. Now despite my initial quibble about the 3D format, this one turns out to be one of the most effective use of 3D since Martin Scorsese’s HUGO. I still don’t think it’s actually necessary but at least Baz was able to do something innovative with it.

Final Thoughts: I was entertained and even enthralled by the visual spectacle and the music (especially Lana Del Rey‘s lush ballad Young & Beautiful), but ultimately, there’s not much emotional depth to really leave its mark. Whatever poignancy and real pathos in Fitzgerald’s novel is dimmed out by all that glitter, leaving the audience wanting more. “Oh, you want too much!” Daisy cried to Gatsby during one particularly heated exchange. Well, I don’t think we are asking too much as the audience to want more than a snack for our soul to go with all that visual feast.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


What are your thoughts of The Great Gatsby? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Music Break: The Great Gatsby’s Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey

I have the Moulin Rouge!‘s soundtrack frequently playing in my car, so I admire Baz Luhrmann‘s creative use of music in his films. He’s known for using contemporary music in his films set in retro setting, and this one is no different.

GreatGatsbySoundtrack

NPR calls the Aussie filmmaker “…cinema’s boldest remixer, infusing familiar works with new rhythms that refresh their relevance…” Instead of going with what the Jazz Age that F. Scott Fitzgerald prominently featured in his novels, Luhrmann boldly mixed in hip hop, R&B, indie pop, rock, etc. in the film’s soundtrack. Music mogul Jay-Z executive produced the soundtrack, so naturally it also featured his wife Beyonce’s music.

Now, I’ve been obsessed with Lana Del Rey‘s track Young & Beautiful. I’ve been listening to it endlessly, sometimes half a dozen times in a row :D

“Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful / Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul / I know you will, I know you will / I know that you will.”

That music is used in this extended TV spot:


After seeing the film last night, I still regard this song as my absolute favorite. Del Rey wrote the track with Rick Nowels and she described Luhrmann’s take on the F Scott Fitzgerald classic as “highly glamorous and exciting”. “It was an honor to work with Baz Luhrmann on his amazing adaptation of one of the most extraordinary books ever written,” the singer said. (per Digital Spy)

LanaDelReyGreatGatsbyI LOVE the melody of the song and Lana’s evocative and seductive voice makes for a soulful yet poignant rendition… Just like Jay Gatsby’s life where he’s surrounded by so many beautiful things, the mansion, the clothes, the endless parties… he’s still aching for that something that money can’t buy. That ‘I know you will‘ line uttered over and over again perfectly captures the nature of this tragic figure… as hope and dream is the prominent theme in Fitzgerald’s literary classic.

I’m glad that this song is featured prominently in the movie, instead of only playing during the end credits. In fact, I thought the scene fits the song nicely, and it’s actually played more than once. I hope to have my review done yet this week but my initial reaction is I dug it, I think Baz’s style and his ‘more is more’ philosophy fits the theme of the story and despite my initial quibble about the 3D aspect, it’s actually one of the best use of such format I’ve seen so far.


Hope you enjoy this music break. Thoughts on this song and/or The Great Gatsby‘s soundtrack?

10 Most-Anticipated Movies of the First Half of 2013 (Jan – June)

Ok, Day 3 of 2013 hasn’t left yet where I live, but I’m already anticipating a slew of movies coming out later this year. To make the list more manageable though, I’m breaking it down to two parts. Here’s 10 that’s scheduled to be released (except for one that’s TBD) between January to June.

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January

Zero Dark Thirty (Jan 13)

A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Mark Strong


Granted I wasn’t in love with The Hurt Locker like a lot of people did, but one thing I do appreciate is Kathryn Bigelow’s skills as a filmmaker. She’s one of the best directors out there that can direct dynamic action sequences and she’s got the cojones to tackle a controversial topic. This film reunites her with The Hurt Locker‘s screenwriter Mark Boal and boasts a great cast! I’m a fan of Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton, so yeah, I’m super curious to see this. Granted we likely won’t get a balanced viewpoint on this ripped-from-the-headlines story, but should be an intriguing piece nonetheless.


March

Dead Man Down (March 8)

In New York City, a crime lord’s right-hand man is seduced by one of his boss’s victims, a woman seeking retribution.

Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert

Oplev is the director of the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now, even though that film is not my cup of tea, I’m quite intrigued by this story. The trailer looks pretty intense, albeit a bit too revelatory. We’ll see how violent it is though, I might just rent it if it’s too much for my nerves. I do like the cast, Rapace was impressive in Prometheus and Farrell and Cooper are two of the coolest Brit and Irish exports working today.

Oz: The Great and Powerful (March 8)

A stage magician is hurled into a fantasy world, and must use his wits to stay ahead of three enchantresses who have plans for him.

Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Bruce Campbell


You’re probably surprised I put this here since I actually have not seen The Wizard of Oz (yep, that’s true). But I like Sam Raimi and the female cast looks pretty darn good. The trailer promises a visual spectacle, and the story reminds me a bit of Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, though probably less surreal than the Terry Gilliam’s movie. Anyway, it would’ve been awesome to see Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp who were at one time linked to this project though. But Raimi and Franco did work together before in the Spider-Man movies.


April

Oblivion (April 26)

One of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to Earth, its surface devastated after decades of war with the alien Scavs, discovers a crashed spacecraft with contents that bring into question everything he believed about the war, and may even put the fate of mankind in his hands.

Director: Joseph Kosinki
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau


Another Tom Cruise movie in which he’s playing another character named Jack?? That’s what I thought when I saw the trailer but when it’s over, I actually found it intriguing. Visually it has an epic feel to it and everything with Morgan Freeman should be good, no? :) It’s interesting to note that this was based on Radical Comics graphic novel that the TRON: Legacy director Kosinski himself wrote with Arvid Nelson. MTV had an interview with Kosinski on how the story came about for the graphic novel:

“I started writing this small character-driven science fiction story that was in the vein of those science fiction films of the 1970s that involved this lone survivor among the ruins of civilization, like ‘Mega Man’ or ‘Silent Running’ — it was kind of in that vein. I thought if it was going to be my first movie it would have to be something very small and contained in order to even get a chance at pulling it off. So it’s the story of a drill repair man, Jack Harper, who is one of the last human beings left on earth after a massive war, which was the result of an alien invasion. Even though humankind won the war, Earth was left in such a state that we had to look for another place to settle, and Jack is left behind to monitor and secure the resource gathering operation that’s happening where we’re gathering the last bit of energy out of the earth’s seawater in order to move onto the next step.”

Well, let’s hope it won’t disappoint like TRON: Legacy did!


May

The Great Gatsby (May 10)

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carrey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton


I’ve covered this one extensively exactly year ago, but the release was delayed significantly. I never got around to reading the book but I’m still excited for this. It’s been a while since I’m excited for a Leo DiCaprio movie, but he looks pretty good as the mad billionaire Jay Gatsby. He seems to have a believable chemistry with the lovely Carey Mulligan, and Tobey seems perfectly cast as the Midwesterner Nick Caraway who’s inexplicably drawn into the world of glitz, glamor and madness! I’m optimistic this would be more like Moulin Rouge! than Australia.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17)

After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Director: JJ Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana


It’s Sherlock terrorizing a whole star fleet, perhaps he can actually outwit Mr. Spock? ;) Kidding aside, I think this looks awesome! Well I love the original and the charismatic cast is set to be on board again, yay! I know all the lads are all pining for the pretty blue-eyed Capt. Kirk but for me it’s all about Dr. McCoy (the gorgeous Karl Urban, natch!).

,,,


June

Much Ado About Nothing (June 7)

A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz

No trailer available that I could find (which is odd since the film has premiered at TIFF), but here’s a Toronto interview of Whedon with two of the major cast Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg:


From a band of superheroes to Shakespeare? That Josh is one versatile dude! Apparently the movie adaptation took place at Joss Whedon’s residence, in Santa Monica, and was filmed entirely in black-and-white over 12 days. It currently has a pretty high Rotten Tomatoes rating so far. Curious to hear what fellow Marvel director Kenneth Branagh (Thor) thinks of this? ;)


Man of Steel (June 14)

An alien infant is raised on Earth, and grows up with superhuman abilities. He sets out to use these abilities to guard his adopted world.

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne


If there is ONLY one movie I could see in 2013, let it be this one! When I saw this full trailer during my vacation I literally went berserk! My undying love for the Kryptonian hero dated all the way back to when I was only 3 years old. I even had the Superman suit and everything. Yes, Superman Returns was rather disappointing, but that was a different era. It’s now Superman Begins, ehm, a collaboration between the DC-savior Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder. Of course I’ve got to mention one of my Brit crushes Henry Cavill, a man so gorgeous it’s out of this world ;) I’m glad Snyder doesn’t make him look like some pretty boy though, he sure looks pretty darn rugged in and out of that bad ass new suit.

Nolan had a lot of positive things to say about Snyder. As quoted by THR, ““Zack was the perfect man to take this on,” Nolan says. “He is unbelievably skilled at creating a coherent, cohesive world — whether it’s a very stylized world, like 300, or something that’s more challenging, more varied, like he did with Watchmen.” He also praised how Snyder handled Man of Steel itself:

“In my honest appraisal, taking on Superman and creating that world is far more difficult than creating the world of the Dark Knight. He has a lot of finishing to do on the movie — it has a very long post-production schedule because, unlike Batman, Superman flies… I try to be as supportive as I can, and I’m just amazed by what he is doing. It’s not something I would know how to do.”

Of course Mr. Nolan is being modest. I think he very well could tackle Superman but hey, having him as the consultant on the project is a very good thing. I can hardly wait for this!!


Monsters University (June 21)

A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at the University of Fear — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

Director: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi


Mike Wazowski is one of my all time favorite Pixar characters so surely I’m excited for this! The latest promo clip is such a hoot, man I’d go to MU for sure if I could hang out with Mike and Sully! :) Normally I’m not fond of sequels but I love the first movie so much and I trust that Pixar would come up with a pretty clever and fun story this time around.


Ok, this one hopefully would come out in the first half of the year, though kinda unlikely given how Terrence Malick likes to tinker with editing his movies :D Before I get to Knight of Cups, the one Malick movie that would sure hit theaters in April 12 in To The Wonder, starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko (who turns out to be the real lead). It premiered at TIFF and Ryan at The Matinee has the review here.

I might check that one out but I REALLY want to see this one:

Knight of Cups (TBD)

A story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess.

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Imogen Poots, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas

The first time I heard about this one in 2011 when I posted about it along with another Malick’s project in the works. I read several reports recently and it sounds like this film is set against the backdrop of the movie business. I’m guessing Bale plays some sort of celebrity surrounded by beautiful women as his life spins out of control?? Of course that’s a wild guess without a real synopsis, trailer, nor even a poster! There are a boat load of on-set pics on Google though.

Check out some behind-the-scenes pics I found of Bale with a bunch of his female co-stars:

KnightOfCupsSetPics

Man, that cast is just awesome isn’t it? I’m most excited to see Bale co-starring with Blanchett. It’s been far too long since I saw her on screen besides her brief appearance in The Hobbit. The plethora of actors sounds like a Woody Allen ensemble-cast movie, the movie also stars Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Ryan O’Neal, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinnaman and Shea Whigham. I hope this one gets a release date real soon, come on Mr. Malick, get crackin’ :D

Honorable Mentions:

  • Welcome to The Punch
  • Gangster Squad
  • Broken City
  • Stoker
  • Olympus Has Fallen
  • Trance
  • Iron Man 3


Well, that’s just what I’m looking forward to in the next six months. Which one(s) are you most excited about?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Great Gatsby

One of my new year resolutions this year is to read more. Currently I’m still trying to finish up Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which is quite challenging, but I’m determined to get through the whole thing.

The next one I’ll be tackling on is The Great Gatsby. I don’t know why but ever since I saw Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris, I had been reading more about the author. Then a couple of days ago I saw this trailer of Fitzgerald’s biographical drama Beloved Infidel, based on the memoir of his mistress Sheilah Graham. Toward the end of his life, Fitzgerald was writing for Hollywood studios to be able to afford the cost of an asylum for his wife Zelda, all the while battling against alcoholism. With Gregory Peck as the author and Deborah Kerr as Sheilah, I’m adding this one to my GP collection :)

Now, back to The Great Gatsby, which is considered Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Here are some of the reasons I’m looking forward to this film:

The story

In case you’re not familiar with the basic premise of the novel:

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

I can see why this novel was so well-received and has that timeless quality about it. This Washington Post reviewer said “… no American novel comes closer than “Gatsby” to surpassing literary artistry, and none tells us more about ourselves… Fitzgerald gives us a meditation on some of this country’s most central ideas, themes, yearnings and preoccupations: the quest for a new life, the preoccupation with class, the hunger for riches…”  Wow, I can’t wait to finally start reading it!

The Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio: Jay Gatsby
Carey Mulligan: Daisy Buchanan
Tobey Maguire: Nick Carraway
Joel Edgerton: Tom Buchanan

Luhrmann has assembled a pretty decent cast here. Before James Cameron made into a mega movie star, Luhrmann already tapped on Leo’s heartthrob potential in his modern Shakespeare adaptation Romeo + Juliet. I think Leo has the looks and perhaps the charm to pull off the aloof and elusive Jay Gatsby. He’s ok as Howard Hughes in The Aviator, but I’d say his performance was serviceable, not great. He’s grown quite a bit as an actor since though, so I’m hopeful he can do this role justice.

Apparently every young actress in Hollywood was vying for the role of Daisy, I mean check out this list of names per IMDb trivia: Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively, Abbie Cornish, Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, Eva Green, Anne Hathaway, Olivia Wilde, Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson were considered to play Daisy Buchanan. Well I’m certainly glad Mulligan got the role, the Brit certainly has the range to portray a young American debutant. As Daisy’s obsession with money and luxury doesn’t exactly make her a likable character, it’s critical to cast an an actress who’s inherently sympathetic as well as beautiful.

Now I think Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast as the quiet, reflective Midwesterner (from Minnesota to be exact, just like the novel’s author) who’s drawn to the fun, lavish lifestyle of the rich New Yorkers. Not sure if they’re going to use Nick as the narrator like in the novel, but I think Tobey’s got the right disposition to portray the inner conflict of this character. In a way he is Gatsby’s antithesis, which I find interesting as both Gatsby and Carraway seem to represent the dual personality of Fitzgerald himself.

Though Tom Buchanan is more of a supporting role, I think Edgerton has the chops to make the character memorable. I was really impressed with him in Warrior, so I’m glad he’s cast in more prominent projects.

The Director

The Great Gatsby has been filmed six times before, with the most famous one to date being the 1974 film version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I actually haven’t seen ANY adaptation of The Great Gatsby, though I might rent the 1974 version before this film opens.

This seventh motion picture adaptation will be at the helm of Aussie director Baz Luhrmann. I think Luhrmann would do well projects like this, he’s got an artistic eye for a costume drama, and he’s proven that he could craft an engaging romance (i.e. Romeo + JulietMoulin Rouge!). This is Luhrmann’s first big-budget production since the disappointment of the $130-million Australia. The Hugh Jackman/Nicole Kidman starrer was not a critical nor financial success, earning only a third of of the production cost. Luhrmann aimed for something akin to Gone With the Wind but it was more like the overblown Duel in the Sun. Let’s hope he’s learned some things from that experience to put to good use on this project.

The Setting

There is something so enchanting about the 1920s. No wonder Gil in Midnight in Paris is so obsessed with that era. The cars, the clothes, the jazz music… I guess they don’t call it the Roaring Twenties for nothing. A period of sustained economic prosperity in the wake of WWI and pre-Great Depression sure makes for intriguing tales of lavish proportion.

Moulin Rouge! won two Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction, and rightly so. The turn-of-the-century set pieces and clothing in that movie are gorgeous to behold. I have faith that Luhrmann would bring the same kind of artistry and meticulous craftsmanship to this film. As pictures from the set have surfaced, the cast look beautiful in their 1920s costumes.

The filming is currently taking place in Australia. According to the Daily Telegraph, Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin will re-create famous New York and Long Island landmarks from the 1920s.

Now, as beautiful as those set pieces are, it’s the story and performances that what would make a lasting impression. Which brings me to…

One area of concern…

Luhrmann is shooting this movie in 3D!! What, what?? Goodness me, I think Fitzgerald might be squirming in his grave. I think I can speak for most people that we want the right mix of visual appeal and rich human drama. Now, it’s highly likely that the movie would look good, but would the use of 3D actually help enhance the human drama?? I doubt it.

I think this quote from Dave Calhoun, film editor of Time Out, in this Guardian article said it best, “If you’re spending time worrying about how to make Gatsby’s hat poke out of the screen or Daisy’s necklace float in front of your eyes, what else are your spending time not worrying about,” he said. “Story? Dialogue? Pace? Acting? Character?”

I truly hope that Luhrmann could add some value by using 3D here, that it’d be worth the extra cost for us to see this. It’d be a shame if it actually distracts from the story, especially one as intriguing as The Great Gatsby! I guess we’ll find out on Christmas day this year.


Any thoughts on this film? Is this one a must-see or meh in your book? I’d also like to know if you’ve seen a previous adaptation of this famed novel.