In the last week, I’ve seen two films set in the past with elaborate costumes, set design and soundtrack.
One was the Great Gatsby, which I was very disappointed with even the relatively low expectations I had. I didn’t even mind the OTT explosion of colour, music and movement party and car scenes wirth whizzy camera work. I quite enjoyed them for a bit. I just minded that there were so many of them. The first hour of the film basically had nothing but one elaborate visual set up after another. It was just a bit much, and it actually reduced the impact of any one scene, and left me yearning for some plot.
Which is funny, because what plot there was, I didn’t actually like much either. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how much of it is the book and how much of it is the film, but it annoyed me so much that there was no character development of even character establishment of Daisy whatsoever. She was supposedly so charismatic, but all she seemed to do was mope about in beautiful dresses, and she did not get a voice at all. The last straw was the big showdown when Gatsby and the husband were arguing and both went ‘Daisy thinks this…’ Daisy thinks that…’ Daisy doesn’t love you…’ when she was standing right there.
I suppose in the book it might be made a bit clearer that she’s just an idea in Gatsby’s head rather than a real person, but given how much screen time she had they might have given her some sort of personality. I just felt so incredibly sorry for her, caught between a bastard husband and a controlling stalker boyfriend, neither of whom were the slightest bit interested in what she felt or wanted to do, and I thought it was a bit rich for the Tobey Maguire character to write her off as a heartless bitch at the end.
I gather in the book Gatsby is more explicitly not likeable, but I did feel that the film was trying to portrait him as a positive hero. Carraway said that he was disappointed with everyone he ever met, except Gatsby, but I really wasn’t clear on what was supposed to be so great about him. A positive outlook on life and ability to remain hopeful when life gets you down is a good thing, but pressuring an emotionally vulnerable ex girlfriend into something she clearly doesn’t want to do so you can act out some elaborate fantasy not so much.
As you can see from the opening sentence, this was meant to be a post about two films, but I’ve gone on for so long that I think this post is long enough so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what the other film was.
Admittedly lovely pictures are from the movie website.