Bro Jackson is declaring it Gatsby Week. Monday we draw parallels; Tuesday we pass out the suggested reading syllabus; Thursday we do drinks; Friday we plan parties, send a true Bro into an area theater sans context, and then render a verdict.
When your best friend works in the promotions department for a major radio station, you get a lot of stuff that is laying around the station. I’ve reaped the benefits to build a fairly extensive DVD collection of marginal comedies, weird clothes, [ref]”Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” hoodie.[/ref] koozies, and key chains. As great as those are, the holy grail is the advanced screening movie passes. I’ve been lucky to see most major movies days before the common man dating back to January of 2008 when I saw “Cloverfield.”[ref]I loved that movie, but after seeing it I spent hours in chat rooms reading about it and my college computer got some crazy virus and ruined it.[/ref] So Tuesday morning when I got a text from my friend that said “‘Gatsby’ tonight at 7:30? You’ll have to pick up the passes at the station.” I instantly jumped on it. Late notice? I flew solo.
The usual crowd at these free events is made up students from the three major Atlanta-based colleges and people with nothing better to do than attend radio station remotes and enter drawings.[ref]Mom’s Basement Guy.[/ref] The extremely southern lady who I thought wearing mom jeans since the late ’80’s struck up a conversation with me in line. She was amazed at the amount of press here covering the movie, which I could only guess she assumed that everybody wearing a Q100 radio shirt was on-air talent and not the college interns they actually are. I considered telling her that I write for Bro Jackson because I knew she would tell her Villa Rica First Baptist congregation about meeting a real-life internet sensation, but I was afraid of the possible Shane Morris backlash we would face.
As the crowd began to grow, I noticed a few outliers that had gathered: cute hipster chicks. But the more I thought about it, these girls were not hipsters, but rather girls who dressed as flappers which brought everything full circle back to them being hipsters after all.
My friend wasn’t working the movie so I didn’t get the perfectly placed “Reserved Seats” which I had become accustomed to, instead I was left sitting on the aisle seat of the front row. As I sat there waiting for the movie to begin and trying to scheme up a way to talk to the girl next to me who was also flying solo, I tried to recall Freshman English and reading “The Great Gatsby,” but it turns out that 14 year old any-aged Moskal is more concerned with baseball and girls. The only thing I could remember about the book was the main girl was named Zelda.[ref]Wrong. That is the real life wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.[/ref] During the previews[ref]Fantastic extended trailer for “Man of Steel.”[/ref] I realized that the angle I was situated at would not be conducive to using my 3D glasses.
As the movie began, the only Gatsby-related knowledge I could recall was the Bro Jackson article from Monday which I somewhat liked because the movie would have a fresh feeling. That fresh feeling was short-lived. Perhaps it was the actors, perhaps it was Baz Luhrmann‘s distinct style, but almost every aspect of this movie reminded me of something I had seen elsewhere.
- The opening sequence felt like I was watching “Shutter Island”.
- When Nick and Tom go on their adventure together it reminded me of the over-the-top colors and acting that was in “Down With Love.”
- And when we finally arrive at one of Jay Gatsby’s famous parties, it was dazzling and opulent in a way that hasn’t been seen since the masquerade ball in “Romeo + Juliet.”[ref]I didn’t know Luhrmann directed that movie until after I had seen Gatsby. R + J is in my top 10.[/ref]
- The Tom character is basically Billy Zane from “Titanic” and the timeline matches up almost perfectly.
- And after a long wait when Gatsby is finally reveled and we start to get to know him, it’s hard not to see the confidence that he tells his suspicion past being the same as Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Frank Abagnale Jr. from “Catch Me If You Can.”
- The Nick-Daisy-Gatsby love triangle is reminiscent of “The Notebook.”
- Even the pomp and circumstance surrounding meals at the Buchanan household is like a cross the pond episode of “Downton Abbey.”
Midway through the movie my mind left the action on the screen and was focused only on the beautiful actress playing Jordan Baker. Who was she? My first thought was that she had to be Zooey Deschanel because there couldn’t be a more fitting role for the hipster queen. But then I started to second guess myself, Jordan’s eyes weren’t nearly big enough. Also, if it was Deschanel, surely I would have heard about it. Once I came to the realization that it wasn’t her, I started to question if this actress was a poor man’s Deschanel or the heir to her throne.[ref]My jury is still out.[/ref]
For me the biggest surprise had to be how well Jay-Z did with the soundtrack. I noted earlier this week how I saw a commercial that was just clips of the movie flashed with the names of who is on the soundtrack was awfully pretentious for a music producer. I was prepared to leave and send out a tweet saying “Jay-Z is no Trent Reznor,” but I felt like the music did a great job, especially in the party scenes. It was fitting that Hova picked two songs off of “Watch The Throne” to be used in a movie about preposterous wealth and spending. The non-Jay-Z songs played just as well in the scenes, but again I was drawn back to “Romeo + Juliet” and the use of “When Doves Cry.”[ref]The one thing he missed on was not using “Otis” in the scene when Gatsby and Nick are riding into the city together, especially when they passed the car poppin’ bottles.[/ref] In any case, Three Six Mafia doesn’t need to worry about Jay joining them in the Oscar fraternity.
Quick rant: as the final credits rolled, people in the audience began to clap, an action I find truly detestable due to the fact that NOBODY ASSOCIATED WITH THE MOVIE CAN HEAR YOU.
Despite Gatsby being an amalgamation of other movies, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t speak to how accurately it reflects upon the book (stay tuned for David Kallison‘s Ph.D version for that) but Luhrmann does a great job telling a tragic love story. We need movies and stories where they don’t end all wrapped up with a pretty bow, but rather at an empty funeral.
In case anybody was wondering, I did finally get the courage to talk to the cute girl who sat next to me. We walked out together and I held the door for her. She said “thank you.” That gave me the in to ask her, “You were sitting next to me in the movie right?” She responded with a weary “Uh, yeah.” And now I would deliver the line I had been sitting on for the last hour and a half: “Well you have a really cute laugh.” “Oh,” she said as she walked in the opposite direction.