City Journal Winter 2016

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Stefan Kanfer
The Gross Gatsby « Back to Story

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To listen to Rhapsody in Blue is to completely understand New York City of the Jazz Age. IF you can listen and understand Rhapsody, of course, which apparently Mr. Lurhmann did not.

Having just had my third novel,REBEL STREETS, (Nortia Press) published, I think I can point out something a lot of people are missing. This is a freakin' movie, not a novel.

We all know Fitzgerald was brilliantly spare in writing Gatsby, but film is a different medium.
In film, character is conflict. You have to see some kind of conflict to bring out character. While there can by an omniscient voice-over, you can only rarely have effective interior monolog. Actors have to speak, argue, or fight to show, not tell who they are.

I thought the director and cast did a fine job of bringing Fitzgerald's genius from the written page to the screen. They turned Fitzgerald's a hard diamond of a novel into a feast for the eyes in this layered, sensual, intelligent film.

Tom Molloy
I do agree that this iteration is way over the top (and not particularly well acted)- but for the first time, someone captured the inherent craziness of the plot. When you truly reduce it to its elements - a mysterious man with mysterious money has gone nuts trying to recreate an old relationship with an incredibly callow woman, remaining nuts to the bitter end by protecting her from the law, then dying in blissful ignorance for his trouble ... And then there is the intrusive old saw, the writer-character-narrator... Well, it only ever worked so beautifully because on so many levels it really never did work. It was always a hot mess, and that's what made it so stunning. An unforgettable and beautiful hot mess, told in luminous unforgettable language. A great book, and at least (and finally) a memorable movie.
I remember the Alan Ladd version from my youth - would love a chance to see it again. Hope someone is trying to make that happen.
Bravo! Fitz would be pleased with your spot-on review.
It strikes me that Gatsby is the perfect vehicle to employ a strategy that usually fails...namely casting against type. I'm surprised a hustler like Jay-Z didn't pounce on the obvious, and choose some talented black actor to play Gatsby. This would give the movie some much needed verisimilitude in social, economic and, of course, sexual terms.
The filmed Gatsby, to be successful, must break away from the book, and stand on its own merits. The portrayal of Gatsby, by a young handsome black man would go a long way in making people forget Fitzgerald for a couple of hours, and lose themselves in the movie. Before anyone yells but you can't cast a black guy it's the Roaring Twenties you idiot, let me say that inconvenient fact should just be ignored. I double-dare anyone to object. It would be one time the weight of political correctness might actually do some good.
My, my, Lake Worth and his erudition, appreciated as usual. But never mind Wall St - how about a yellow drunkard for senator? That would make for a great story line. Mary Jo Kopechne was probably just as drunk as Florence Cioffi, only much, much younger. Ted Kennedy ruled OK, did he not?

As for Baz L. ever making a watchable movie, now that is a good joke.
Who could think for a second that those now in Hollywood could produce a GOOD film based on Gatsby? Hollywood can barely do Marvel and DC superheroes, it is ridiculous that these people could handle anything that doesn't require explosions and comic book characters.

Every once in a while, in order to preserve its image of itself as a group of serious filmmakers, Hollywood tries something beyond its typical cartoonish movies. Usually what you get is some awful film that promotes some liberal Democrat hero or heroine taking on the "system."

More rare is something like Gatsby, which, true to form has falled laughably short. I mean...a squarehead like DiCaprio, whose face looks like a lego, as Gatsby? What are these people thinking?
This recalls reviews of the Verona Beach film, also featuring DiCaprio.

Stefan Kanfer has done a lifetime of Show Biz bios. He's good at it. Thing is, the Baz Luhrmanns of the world knock it out of the park -- again and again.

This Gatsby hits the extravagance of the Roaring Twenties and the extralegal excesses of this first cocaine-driven social whirl.

As for wrecks, consider the killing of Florence Cioffi by George Anderson on Water Street in 2008. Get drunk at a Rangers game, drive 60 mph up Water, kill a woman trying to hail a cab. Then, indeed, as in Gatsby the Wall Street rich are different in that they can disappear into their money. (16 days in Rikers and a $350 fine. For DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene.)
I'll reserve judgement til I see it--but I'm already half convinced that Mr. Kanfer is right. What's curious is that the novel seems to resist a cinematic interpretation.
I love it when the ticket buying public rubs dirt in the face narcissistic critics like Kanfer. I'm a Fitzgerald fan from way back he was one of the three authors in my masters oral exam and I went to the movie expecting to hate it. I didn't. DiCaprio, Mulligan and Maguire deserved every bit of the standing O that the audience at Cannes gave them last night.