Film review: The Great Gatsby

My relationship with Baz Luhrmann films has evolved over time. When I first saw his take on Romeo + Juliet at summer camp when I was 14, I absolutely hated it. Then when we had to watch it in my freshman English class, I hated it a little less. It took me three tries watching Moulin Rouge! to get past the first half hour. When I finally saw the rest of Moulin Rouge! last year, I absolutely fell in love with it. After hearing Luhrmann planned to take on the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic The Great Gatsby, I was cautiously optimistic. The more I heard about his plans to have Jay-Z lead the soundtrack, the more I planned to just separate the book from the film adaptation in my mind.

Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised. I have not read Gatsby since my junior year of high school, but I remembered that I loved it. I had every intention of rereading it before seeing the film, but that did not happen. I remembered a lot of symbolism with eyes and lights. I read all the articles questioning how Luhrmann would translate the narrative structure of the novel into a quality film. Although it has been six years since I read the novel, it seemed like Luhrmann stuck close to the source material.

The biggest difference was in how Nick (Tobey Maguire) tells the story. In the novel, Nick is essentially treated like the author of the story. In the film, we see Nick writing a novel based on the summer, but he is in a mental institution while doing so. Luhrmann’s Nick is suffering from anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and several other things. I don’t really think that change was necessary, but it did not ruin the film for me.

As soon as Luhrmann signs his name to any film, the audience can be certain the movie is going to be a spectacle. It will be filled with vibrant production design, a mixture of modern and historical music, and sweeping cinematography. Many people were worried the use of a modern soundtrack would take away from the setting in the Jazz Age. However, Luhrmann actually used the music to highlight that. Although Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Kanye West are all on the soundtrack, their music really only appears during party scenes and is often mixed with jazz. It’s a really cool melding of the historical and modern that helps to illustrate how the story is still relevant. The music that stood out the most to me, though, was the songs used during the more dramatic portions of the film. In particular, Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” might as well have been subtitled “Daisy’s Theme.” The haunting repetition of “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful” helped to give Daisy (Carey Mulligan) more depth and better communicate her motives.

My biggest problem with the film was with the casting of Maguire, however. Nick is supposed to be this naive, idealistic young man. He makes a remark during the course of the film that he has just turned 30 years old. He is clearly supposed to be younger than Gatsby. Maguire was simply too old to play this part. Although he looks younger than his 37 years, there was not enough of an age difference between him and Gatsby. Leonardo DiCaprio was absolutely perfect for Gatsby’s part. He had the perfect mix of maturity and youthful hope that was needed to make his role believable. I would have much rather seen someone like Andrew Garfield, Jeremy Jordan, or Emile Hirsch as Nick.

There is no denying that Daisy is not exactly the most developed character in the story. She is essentially a prop for Gatsby’s hope and affection. Her role is to be beautiful and unattainable. However, Mulligan did a phenomenal job in making her more well-rounded. Her inner battle between her love for Gatsby and her attachment to her husband Tom (the fantastically terrifying Joel Edgerton) made me truly feel for her. I also wanted her entire wardrobe because everything she wore was completely beautiful.

The bottom line with this film is you’ll like it if you like Baz Luhrmann films. If you don’t want anything modern mixed in with the text of the novel, you probably will not care for this. I saw the film in 3D because of scheduling, but I don’t feel seeing it in 2D would detract from the experience. I will say the final ten minutes were absolutely astounding in 3D, but I think it would be just as powerful in 2D. I left the theater completely breathless and anxiously awaiting the next time I can go see it. It probably won’t be until it gets to the $3 theater near my apartment, but I’ll be there as soon as it gets there.


Glee recap: Wonder-ful (yet another theme episode)

Remember after the big Michael Jackson episode in season 3 when Ryan Murphy said they weren’t going to do any more tributes? It’s okay. Neither does he, since this is the third artist-specific tribute episode they’ve done since then. Not to mention the genre tributes to Latin music, disco, and movie music, as well as the Grease episode. Ryan Murphy, you are a liar.

Rachel starts off the episode by calling Will to let him know she has a second callback for Funny Girl. She tells him how she owes him everything because “Don’t Stop Believin'” was her first audition song. Will starts to tear up as he tells Rachel how proud he is of her. Will decides her news is wonderful, so that is the theme for this week. This is literally his thought process at this point. He might as well just open a dictionary, point to a word, and come up with an artist that loosely connects to it. Since wonder is in the word wonderful, this week belongs to Stevie Wonder. He tells the glee club about Rachel’s audition. He also tells them Brittany is at MIT for an early acceptance interview. Bullshit. I know someone who goes to MIT. I am offended on her behalf that the writers are even proposing the idea that Brittany could get in there. Along with that, Will also shares the news that he and Emma are engaged again. Tina raises her hand to offer the news she has been waitlisted for veterinary school. No, she hasn’t. You have to have an undergrad degree before you apply to vet school. You don’t just get a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. The writers aren’t even researching shit at this point. Will lectures everyone about how fantastic Stevie Wonder is.

Kitty chases Artie down the hallway to ask why he is so depressed. Kitty thinks Artie is upset because he has a crush on her, but he assures her that’s not it. He tells her he got accepted to the Brooklyn Film Academy, but he can’t go and he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Kurt is in New York, counting down the days to finding out about Burt’s test results. In voiceover, he tells us about the new rituals he’s adopted in order to ensure good news for his dad. He only wears light blue socks because they’re the color of clear skies. He taps his nose three times at the 14 and 28-minute mark of each hour. Essentially, Kurt has developed obsessive compulsive disorder. I would be far more invested in this development if I thought the writers would pursue it past this episode, but we all know they won’t. Regardless, Kurt is absolutely terrified and Chris Colfer does an amazing job portraying the fact that Kurt is barely holding it together.

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Glee recap: Lights Out (in which McKinley experiences the longest blackout ever)

Previously on Glee: Someone has been pretending to be a girl named Katie and flirting with Ryder online. He figured out that it’s someone in glee club. Sue took the fall after Becky brought a gun to school. Naturally, she was fired. Santana moved to New York and is trying to figure out her life.

There is no sort of disclaimer warning this week, although there should be. There will be frank talk of molestation, so please don’t proceed if that is a trigger for you.

Everyone walks into the choir room. Ryder is texting Katie and trying to figure out why she keeps standing her up. Will comes in to tell them that the Hoosierdaddies have a magical sophomore named Frida Romero (played by American Idol’s Jessica Sanchez) who has an amazing voice. He goes on to tell them that to better than her and her amazing voice, their setlist has to be completely huge. He wants it filled with epic songs that could fill up an arena. Just then, the lights go out in the building. Electricity clearly thinks Will is as stupid as the rest of us do. Figgins comes on the PA system, which is apparently still working, to let them know that this is neither an emergency nor an excuse to party. He also tells them to continue with classes and they will distribute flashlights and candles by grade point average. Will changes his mind and decides they’re going to do acoustic songs instead.

Ryder and Jake are walking through the hallways, discussing Katie. Jake tells Ryder he might be a little too attached to Katie. Ryder tells Jake he’s told Katie things he’s never told anyone else. Jake wants to know what Ryder has been keeping secret from him, but Ryder isn’t ready to tell Jake just yet.

Santana comes in to the loft with a chair she found outside. She wants to fix it up and make it look pretty, but Rachel and Kurt just want to tell Santana she’s throwing away her life. They’re upset she’s working at Coyote Ugly and another place as a cage dancer. They ask her what her dreams are, and she doesn’t really have an answer for them just yet. In the meantime, they tell her she needs to be doing something else with her life. I kind of want to punch Rachel and Kurt in this scene. Not everyone can have their lives totally figured out. I’m totally in the same place as Santana right now, and I would punch any of my friends if they did this to me. She makes the valid point that she has to work somewhere, but that answer isn’t good enough for them. She gets up and walks away.

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Glee recap: Sweet Dreams

Previously on Glee: A gun went off at school. Sue took the blame for it, but it was actually Becky’s gun. Finn kissed Emma and the Wemma wedding got completely derailed. Will got super pissed at Finn, so Finn decided to enroll in college in the middle of the semester to become a teacher. Broadway is apparently reviving Funny Girl, so Rachel flipped out and decided to audition for the role of Fanny Bryce.

Finn is now a student at the University of Lima, where he is studying education. Well, theoretically. Apparently, the U of L is like the number one party school in the world and everyone is majoring in the Harlem Shake. His room is the biggest party spot on campus, thanks to his new roommate Puck. Here’s what’s awkward about this storyline. Cory Monteith and Mark Salling are both so clearly in their thirties. They don’t come off as college freshmen. They’re more the awkward alumni that come back for Homecoming and try to relive their college days, but it just ends up being kind of sad.

Rachel is auditioning for Funny Girl, so she’s in full-on diva mode and pretending to be Barbra Streisand. Ugh. We get some backstory about the history of Funny Girl. Rachel goes over to her Barbra shrine and pays her daily respects while we get a really long voiceover about how important this role is to Rachel’s very existence.

Now that Sue is gone, Coach Roz is back to take over the Cheerios. She comes in and asks if people are still recovering from that “fake school shooting.” Yep, way to diminish something that utterly terrified an entire school. She leaves and Bieste asks if Will has talked to Finn. Will isn’t ready to forgive Finn, so he says they’ve just grown apart. Bieste calls bullshit and tells Will to make the effort to patch things up between them.

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