Monday, May 13, 2013

Gatsby in Mind

Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan
I don't own copywrite on this so will remove if asked
Lucky me, I was able to the new Baz Luhrmann film The Great Gatsby this weekend. On Mother’s Day to be exact, so that was a nice present to myself. I’d seen one review of the film that was vaguely complimentary, so I didn’t have many preconceived notions about it before I sat down other than I liked F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, and I love that period. I was hoping for some great costumes and sets, hoped for good music, and as long as the script wasn’t radically different than the book, I didn’t really care. It had an afternoon to myself, a tub of popcorn, and an iced chai (yes, my theatre serves chai, who knew? They also serve White Castles, which is all kinds of awesome.)
Let me say first off, I really liked the movie. It was as wild, frenetic, loud, and colorful as you would expect from this director and once I settled in for the ride, it was perfectly fun. I believe the movie treated the characters much more sympathetically than I ever did as a reader, which made sense considering how ‘pretty’ the whole movie was. It would be jarring to have terribly conflicted and hard to categorize characters in the middle of these over the top gorgeous surroundings. And they were gorgeous. The crystal was Waterford by my guess, the costumes conspicuously expensive, and the floral arrangements alone looked like they’d cost tens of thousands of dollars. There was as much conspicuous consumption up there on the big screen as what you would have seen at any striver’s party during the twenties. The only quibbles I had were with jewelry; Daisy’s famous pearls rolling all over the floor when the string broke was totally unrealistic, pearls are always individually knotted to prevent just such an occurrence but I’ll give it a pass because it’s such a dramatic visual. And one of Jordan Baker’s necklaces was too clunky for the period, it would have fit better for a thirties costume.
I didn’t notice the actors much, Gatsby and Daisy were credible, Carraway was more appealing than he’d ever seemed in the book as was Jordan Baker. The only actor that stood out to me was Joel Edgerton, he really nailed Tom Buchanan and gave him more nuance and interest than I’d ever gotten from the book. Of course he was a horrible, spoiled, and entirely pointless excuse for a person, but the actor made him interesting.
As I watched the film, I began to see where the novel influences my own writing. In my first book, Bent Boot Road, I compare my hero Carter, with an Arrow Collar man, an image of which featured prominently in the film. My heroine Lydia also compares the hero’s nice shirts to Gatsby’s lovely excess. Of course, Carter Harris is about as far away from Jay Gatsby as a fictional person could be. All they have in common are ethnicity, gender, and sartorial elegance. And in the book I am polishing for pitches this summer, my hero, Thomas, arranges for a beautiful hotel room with fresh flowers and lots of snacks for the heroine Mel to enjoy when she comes to London. It was very similar to the scene in The Great Gatsby where Jay Gatsby sets up an overblown tea for the reunion with Daisy, all to try and impress her. So F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work has had a subconscious influence on me as a writer and not just as a reader, which is really interesting considering I haven’t read the thing in at least a decade.

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