Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald… Almost every high school in America includes this novel in their curriculum.  My high school did not do this book justice, and I recently re-read Gatsby and fell in love with it.  For as hopeless as it seems to end, The Great Gatsby is beautiful and rhythmic, built on symbolism and metaphor.  Everyone should read this book at least once in their life… seriously.

I’ve never seen any other film adaptation of the novel, however, I’ve heard that there are a few out there and that they suck (for lack of a better term).  So when I started seeing trailers for this version of Gatsby, I got really excited.  Then I started hearing some mixed reviews, which made me a little nervous about seeing it.  However, after having the weekend to really digest what I saw, I can say that even though it didn’t live up to the novel (no movie adaptation ever will, let’s be honest), I was content with what Baz Luhrmann presented us with.

the-great-gatsby-2013-movie-sceneThe Great Gatsby (2013) is narrated by Nick Carraway, a mid-Westerner who moves to New York City in order to pursue a career in stocks and bonds, even though what he really wants to do is write.  He moves into a small cottage in West Egg, across the river from his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, and next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby.  As Nick gets pulled into the lavish lives of the rich and the shallow, he is also drawn to the mystery that surrounds Gatsby’s past and who he really is.

There were things about Luhrmann’s adaptation that I liked and disliked.

To start with, I wasn’t really a big fan of some of the music that was present in the film.  It was a cool concept that I thought would be interesting, however, at times it kind of took away from the whole Roaring ‘20s feel that the movie should have had.  However, the remixes of modern day music with a jazzy spin on them were kind of cool.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the narrative in the film.  After discussing this with my mom, I can understand how the narrative would have helped for some people who have never read the novel.  However, I wasn’t really buying into it.  I thought it was corny, mainly because of the dialogue between Nick and his doctor.  When it was just Nick and his typewriter with the voice over narration—that was when I enjoyed the narrative the most.

Now let’s talk about the visuals, because they’re kind of hard to ignore.  I really like them.  I liked all the attention to detail and how lavish and beautiful everything looked.  However, they were very overwhelming… and sometimes cartoonish, which put me off a little bit.

As far as acting went, nobody was terrible but nobody was outstanding either—with one exception.  This was Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie—he was a great Gatsby (do you seegreat-gatsby photo 3 what I did there?!).  The one qualm that I have with this movie is that they didn’t just let the actors act because the majority of the time, the visual aspects drowned everything out.  But DiCaprio really did capture the essence of Jay Gatsby, this harsh metaphor for the American Dream who’s stuck in the past.

This was a very respectful adaptation of the novel.  The Great Gatsby is a book with a  plot that revolves around metaphor and symbolism—the green light, the downfall of the American Dream, the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, time, etc.  I thought that the film was very reverent in portraying these things.  For example, in one scene where Gatsby, Nick, and Daisy are sitting in Nick’s living room, Gatsby accidentally knocks over a clock on the mantel and breaks it.  As he’s trying to repair it, he starts to beat it, but fails in repairing it.  Time is something that Gatsby wants to control, as portrayed in his famous quote: “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” and in the end, he has no control over it and he doesn’t get to go back in time with Daisy Buchanan.  I don’t know if the scene was improvised or intentional.  I’d like to think it was intentional because I really enjoyed how subtle, yet how important to the outcome of the story it was.

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Overall, I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby.  It wasn’t perfect, however, it’s far from terrible.  It was very respectful to the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  And hell, it’ll give the kids something interesting to watch in English classes all across America now!

Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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I didn’t anticipate that it would take me this long to see Silver Linings Playbook (2012)!  I meant to see it when it was released in theaters, however, other things got in the way.  In the meantime, I had heard some good things about it, and some not so good things.  So when I finally watched this movie, I tried to clear all that out of my head so that I could form my own opinion… with only a little bit of bias I suppose.

246_SLP-09226[1]--621x414Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a mental institution and moves back in with his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver).  His goals include getting his old job back, reconciling and reconnecting with his ex-wife, and trying to find the “silver linings” in his life.  This proves tough, however, as he is also trying to deal with his bipolar disorder.  When he meets a girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), they form a friendship that ends up helping one another in more ways than they imagined.

Fun fact about Silver Linings Playbook: if you ever wanted to know what my hometown of Upper Darby looked like, all you would have to do is watch this movie because it was filmed there!  I remember all the hype going on during the making of this movie, and how annoying it could get (thank you strange movie person for the directions, I had no idea how to maneuver around the town I’ve lived in my entire life).  However, it was really cool seeing some familiar places featured in the film like the Llanerch Diner, Prendie, and the Lansdowne Theater.

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Back to the film… I didn’t really know what to expect from it.  It seemed like it was marketed as a rom-com but watching it, it definitely didn’t feel that way even with the romance factor present.  It was so much more than that.  The film is basically about people trying to deal with their mental illness, and life in general.  It’s crazy at times, as well as heartbreaking.  There was a bit of a cynical tone to the movie, which I appreciated because I can be quite a cynical person, however it was balanced out nicely with the positive message that is portrayed- there is always a silver lining, you just have to find it.  It may take time, but if you try to be positive and let go of all the negativity that life throws at you, you’ll be able to attain it.

silver-linings-playbook-review3Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were great in this film.  Cooper’s always been one of those actors who played that douche bag in that one movie, so it was nice seeing him take on a more serious role; and boy did he nail it!  Lawrence is one of Hollywood’s best young actresses at the moment and she does a fine job next to Cooper, which earned her a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.  The supporting cast also does a great job and really helped tie the movie together.

If you go into Silver Linings Playbook with the idea that it’s some generic romantic comedy, then you’re dead wrong.  The film deals with mental illness, and real emotions that people go through, while reminding us that we’re all kind of “off our rockers” in some way.  It’s a film about seeing the positive in seemingly impossible situations.

Review: American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho had been on my watch list for quite a while.  About a week ago I finally had the opportunity to see it.

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a young and very wealthy man who is working on Wall Street.  He seems to have everything going for him.  However, underneath this mask lies a dark and intense need to kill people for absolutely no reason.

The first time that I saw this movie, I didn’t quite understand the ending until I watched it a second time.  But even at that, I found American Psycho kind of fascinating, while at the same time wondering what exactly it was supposed to be about.

When we talked about it in class, there was mention of it being satirical towards Wall Street and focusing on themes of greed, vanity, and materialism, which aren’t just limited to the character of Patrick Bateman.  We see Bateman and his friends comparing business cards in an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” kind of way; his fiancé is all about appearance it seems; and if Bateman’s whole apartment/life/attitude doesn’t scream out materialistic, vain, misogynistic bastard then I don’t know what does.

The outward appearance of other’s is also a relevant theme.  Bateman is trying to fit into a world where virtually everyone is the same.  It seems like he is always trying to find meaning in things that have no meaning, like his constant critiquing of songs and music that are completely mindless.  (WARNING: The scene below is graphic! If you’re not into that, don’t watch)

Going off of the fact that everyone is basically pretty much the same in his society, Bateman has no sense of identity.  Keep this idea in mind when you watch the film and notice that from the very beginning of the movie, everybody is always mistaking certain characters for other people.  Even at the end of the movie, Bateman is mistaken as someone else by his own lawyer.

To me, the character of Patrick Bateman is probably one of the most disturbing I’ve ever encountered.  I automatically disliked him before he started his killing spree.  However I find it interesting that because of the fact that he lives in this society that is so conformed and petty, he has no sense of self; because of this he creates a monstrous alter ego where he is a raging psycho who kills other people just for the hell of it.  He is sick.  And disturbing.  And what makes Patrick Bateman even more frightening is the fact that at the end of the movie, you as a viewer (as well as Bateman himself, it seems) don’t know whether or not he killed anybody or if it was all in his head.

 

American Psycho is definitely worth a watch.  Christian Bale did an excellent job at portraying the monster that is Patrick Bateman.  It’s a movie that will shock you, disturb you, and leave you thinking in the end.

 

 

 

 

Review: Brick (2005)

I received a comment on my post about film noir’s from Samuel Mulder about any neo noir films that I would recommend other than the likes of Pulp Fiction or Chinatown.  At the time, I had no answer to his inquiry… I do now.

Brick was recommended to me by a fellow classmate in my seminar over the summer and it peaked my interest for mainly one reason: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  As I’ve mentioned before, I kinda fancy him.  And other than Ten Things I Hate About You, I haven’t really seen any of his earlier work.  The trailer looked interesting, so I had to see what this movie was all about.

Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a high school loner, is sought out by his ex-girlfriend who has gotten herself into some trouble.  When she winds up dead, he decides to investigate her murder and gets himself caught up in the underbelly of a teenage crime ring.

The plot sounds a little unrealistic and far-fetched.  A noir detective story that is set in high school.  Huh?  It sounds weird, but the cool thing about it is that, surprisingly, it works!

This movie has all the elements of a noir:

  • The hard boiled detective (Brendan)
  • Quick, witty banter
  • The femme fatale
  • Crime

There are also some points in the film were statuettes of falcons are shown, an obvious nod to The Maltese Falcon.

The storyline was a little hard to follow at some points; however, it wouldn’t be noir if it weren’t.  Also, there’s a lot of mumbling (to the point where I couldn’t really understand what the actors were saying).

The acting was very good in this movie.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a good job at portraying the anti hero/hard boiled detective/high school loner.  Emilie de Ravin did a good job with her role for the little amount of time we do see her.  Matt O’Leary plays Brain and I really liked this character and thought he did a great job with the role.  We don’t get to see Brain that often in the movie, however I like the ambiguity of this character.  A lot of people talk about him being a figment of Brendon’s imagination, which is kind of supported in the movie: the only person that ever sees him or talks to him in person is Brendon.  However, this is just a theory and it is left up to the viewer.

I really enjoyed this movie.  I like how they incorporated the aspects of film noir into it.  It’s an interesting take on noir that keeps you on the edge of your seat!