Attended the new movie version of "The Great Gatsby" last week.
The movie was visually luscious. Much of it was computer-generated, or at least gave that feel. However, once I gave in to the unreality, which I did about 45 minutes in, the movie was a treat.
Unlike "Hyde Park on the Hudson," and "Lincoln," "Gatsby" made no serious attempt to be an authentic period piece. For instance, the movie was set in 1923, yet in one scene a camera appeared which Lance immediately recognized wasn't introduced until 1929. (You have to be a real camera nerd to recognize that.)
Rapper Jay-Z provided part of the sound track. That was authentic only in that an equivalent party scene today would probably have Jay-Z's music pounding away. So, with the 1920s garb and costumes, the music of Jay-Z might have made the party scene seem more hip for today's young viewer.
The mansions, the servants and the parties were so over-the-top as to be mythical. I suspect that was the intention.
The visuals and the lighting were luscious to the point of surreal. In fact, they reminded me of the work of 1920s artist Maxfield Parrish. Lots of Grecian urns in the movie, lots of Grecian urns in Parrish's paintings. And loads of idealized scenes with golden lighting, like the soft but gold sunlight which bounces of a thunderhead to the east at sunset in July.
The narrator of the movie, a Minnesotan named Nick Caraway, could be me. An industrious, naive sort, he could watch the antics of the super rich and super hip from the periphery with some envy, but could never be a part of them due to his practical sense and solid (read: boring) character.
The classic scene was when an exhausted Caraway couldn't keep his mind on his stock selling job after spending a night as an auxiliary to one of Gatsby's adventures. You could hear him think: How could he have been so stupid as to waste his night merely observing the debauchery of others, only to flop at his job the next day?
And yet, the allure of Gatsby was so strong. It was the allure of a charming, narcissistic, probably addictive personality (Gatsby) working on the insecurities of a sheltered but solid and sensible Midwesterner. Gatsby, too, was a Midwesterner, but he was of the Skitch Henderson type--a shameless and aggressive climber who covered up his small-town Midwestern past through lying, swindling and deceit. Nick Caraway, however, was just too decent to abandon his honorable roots.