‘The Great Gatsby’ tackles the weight of literary hopes with decent results

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An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is lured into the lavish world of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby’s nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await.

Often lauded as a novel that cannot be filmed, this latest adaptation from Baz Luhrmann potentially comes the closest to capturing the hedonistic excess that is wrapped in this heartbreaking tale of love and obsession. Fans of Luhrmann’s style won’t be able to avoid seeing some of the borderline musical and choreographed sequences but that falls away fairly quickly as his ability to stage some sumptuous and lush looking visual set pieces works incredibly well in concert with the overall narrative. The script that he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Craig Pearce moves through the narrative at a brisk pace that never gives away the films nearly 2 and a half hour running time as he successfully allows to get swept up into this world, in spite of some uneven pacing from time to time, we never once get the urge to look at our watches. Luhrmann’s style allows us as the viewer to get swept up in his vision of utter excess as the rich get richer and retreat into their decadence while the poor suffer under the boot heel of their perceived betters’. It’s a story that shadows the perils of not only success and fame seeking that goes on even to this day, but the destructive nature of obsession and trying to recapture the past. There are admittedly some aspects of the narrative that ring a little hollow, but this might be the first adaptation of the novel where that point finally gets driven home as we are confronted with some fairly unlikable characters. A story like this always depends on the actors playing the roles, and this well cast adaptation works perfectly well thanks to the work from the leads on down.

In a change from the previous big screen adaptation in 1974, Leo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby plays him as a nervous and fragile human being so desperate to be accepted into a world that will seemingly always shun him no matter what he does. DiCaprio makes Gatsby a flesh and blood, and most importantly a flawed one something that ultimately makes him a likeable and tragic character. Tobey Maguire as his neighbour and friend Nick Carraway works wonders in the role as he isn’t necessarily looking for something from Gatsby, something which Gatsby is sadly used to and is only trying to be a good friend to the man, they have great chemistry together as they both navigate the realms of the rich and powerful with varying degrees of success. Carey Mulligan the lost love Daisy Buchanan is OK but not given as much depth or room to work with in order to establish some legitimate character and Joel Edgerton as the pompous old money millionaire Tom Buchanan is a little more muted from previous versions of the film as some of the racial overtones in the novel are a little more subdued then they were in past version of the film. The ensemble is rounded out with the likes of Isla Fisher who gets a moment or two to shine as Myrtle Wilson while Jason Clarke and Elizabeth Debicki as George Wilson and Jordan Baker respectively get pushed a little more into the background then they should have perhaps been.

Ultimately, “The Great Gatsby” is a story that will more than likely never satisfy devotees and fans of the book, but in this latest rendition it manages to at least succeed in capturing the high and lows of the era. The story makes for an entertaining yet tragic love story with some characters that we can actually get behind as it mirrors some social issues that we face even today.

3 out of 5 stars

“The Great Gatsby” is now playing at theatres all across the country, check with your local listings for show times.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Worth a look-see. They keep trying, but so far, none of the versions has really gotten it. Maybe this time?

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Daily Prompt: I Want to Know What Love Is — LOVE IS

Together

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Love is.

Love wants not to be defined.

Love defies explanations.

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Do you breathe? Live under God’s light?

Then you know love.

It’s in your bones, your blood, your soul.

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Love is feeling.

The more you try to imprison love in walls of words,

The faster it will run from you.

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Trust is the food of love.

Trust love, that you know when you give it, know when you get it.

Mated Swans

Embrace it when it comes.

Share it.

Bestow it freely, in joyous abundance.

Love given away never diminishes the love you have.

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Love is for sharing, not saving.

Is it love when unshared?

Then it is, I think, an idea only.

Love thrives in light, withers in dark.

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There is but one kind of love.

Its expressions and objects vary, but love is, of all things, the simplest.

Love is.

Garden on the Deck

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

Each year I’ve lived in this house — except for one — I’ve put flowers out on the deck, hanging fuchsia and bright begonias.

The hummingbirds love fuchsia. If you are quiet and patient, you can sit, sip you coffee or lemonade. You can watch the hummingbirds busily drinking from the fuchsia and the red or violet begonias too. Last year, I missed getting some fuchsia.

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

Several local nurseries have closed and the few that remain only grow a limited number of fuchsia. They take up so much room in the greenhouse, you see, they can only grow a few dozen.

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

I knew today was the day they would put the fuchsia out for sale.There were 40 at the start of the day. By the time I got there at a little past noon, there were 6 left. I bought two. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer!

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

Only one year, the year after I had my bilateral mastectomy, did I put no flowers out. It was less a sign of how sick my body was than how depressed I was emotionally.

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

This year I vowed, we’d have our garden on the deck.

I kept my word. This year, we have flowers.

There’s always something new …

Just when I thought it was safe, that I have every camera I could ever want, out comes the new Olympus E-P5. There’s some kind of law that as soon as I buy the camera I’ve finally saved up for, out comes the next generation that’s got all the nifty features I hoped to see.

Olympus E-P5

Actually it isn’t coincidental. I wait until the price on the equipment I want drops before I buy it. The price drop nearly always signals the imminent release of a new generation of equipment, or at least a new model. So I’m likely to remain at least a generation behind in camera technology.

That’s what happens when one lusts for the coolest newest stuff, but don’t really have the money to buy it. Moreover, I have nothing more than the flimsiest excuse to get another camera, even with my rationalization engine turned up to full. Lucky for me there isn’t much the P5 is offering that I don’t (more or less) have with the P3/PM2 combo. So it’s lovely, but I can resist it.

On the other hand (trumpets and a drumroll) … the new Panasonic (Leica in all but name) LUMIX DMC-LF1 was announced this afternoon. She’s lovely, scheduled for delivery in June. Just a few short weeks from now.

Lumix DMC LF-1
Lumix DMC LF-1

It’s got a built-in (be still my heart!) optical viewfinder, shoots in JPG or RAW, has a fast Summicron F/2.0 medium-long telephoto lens. At $499, it is almost affordable. Could this be the perfect do-it-all camera for which my soul yearns?

LUMIX DMC LF-1 (back)

I have a longstanding policy of never buying a new model of anything  (cars, cameras, computers, software) until I’ve heard from regular users, not the PR spinners. I want to feel the love before I start hoarding my pennies and quarters.

Since it won’t even be available to regular users until next month, I figure it will be a while before feedback starts coming in. There’s a strong possibility by the time I might be able to afford it — assuming I hear really good things about it — my computer will stop having intermittent seizures and quit working entirely, ending any chance of getting another camera no matter how wonderful.

Somehow, I think I’ll manage anyhow.

It’s new, better, exciting, cool. But if I miss it, there will be another — and another after that.

Because there’s always something new on the way. Trust me.

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