The Great Gatsby will overwhelm you with its opulent style. That’s not a bad thing. The latest movie adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel leaves no zoom unturned as helmer Baz Luhrmann paints a portrait of a society at odds with itself, both idealistic and yet hopelessly decadent, both ancient and modern.
It’s not like Luhrmann appeared out of nowhere. A generation ago he was fresh with Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet. His film that I find the least interesting, Australia, is actually his highest grossing film. It’s not like Luhrmann’s making a movie that was based on a book that was then based on a musical. Hello Les Mis. But after Luhrmann’s Gastby someone will make a musical based on the source.
Luhrmann’s vision of Fitzgerald is no more fantastical than if he was adapting The Diamond As Big as the Ritz, a short story that Fitzgerald wrote and was published a couple of years before Gatsby. The point being, Fitzgerald was on the cusp on all the literature and cinema of alienation that would come afterwards. And Luhrmann captures this with lens flares and constant shots of the green light across the bay as well as the battered billboard with an oculist ad. And if you don’t think Fitzgerald is on the tip of your tongue if not the back of your mind think about the last party you attended or even his fictionalized persona in Midnight in Paris (2011).
Gatsby is tough and at times stringent, but at the end you are left with a devastating summing up of events, and to Luhrmann’s skill it leaves you cold and detached rather than warm and fuzzy. In addition to Leonardo DiCaprio, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton, Toby Maguire, and Elizabeth Debicki also star. Most films are shot and edited, but Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby feels like it was sculpted out of gold.
In limited release are In the House (Dans la maison) at the River Oaks Three, and At Any Price at the downtown Sundance Cinema. A farming drama centered around issues involving GMOs, At Any Price unfolds at a pace so steady as to be sitting motionless in a GPS controlled combine harvester that probably costs as much as a house. Oddly, At Any Price could be lumped together with the recent Promised Land. Although Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant, informs the audience a lot more about fracking than At Any Price informs same about genetically modified farming. In perhaps the weirdest instance of Seven Degrees of Separation Dennis Quaid, who stars as At Any Price’s greedy millionaire farmer on the verge of bankruptcy, plays a mock pervy version of Van Sant in Movie 43, one of those skit-comedy compilation movies that nobody goes to see. Even fewer will see At Any Price.
On the other hand In the House has a cast to die for. This is a French film of distinction and should be treated as such. A precocious teen writer fascinates a teacher with his diary like account of a wealthy family who’ve befriended him. The young lad especially has the hots for the mom, and that spurs continued debate between the teacher and his wife.
François Ozon, whose last few films haven’t been distributed domestically, observes the human comedy on display with a sardonic sneer. It’s a return to form from one of France’s leading writer/directors. (Some of Ozon’s previous films include Swimming Pool, Under the Sand, 8 Women). The cast includes Fabrice Luchini, Kristen Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Denis Ménochet.
- Michael Bergeron