What’s better than a Lutheran pastor presiding over Gatsby’s poorly attended funeral?
A Lutheran pastor reviewing the movie!
Read Rev. Ted Giese’s evaluation here.
Do you know what I like in a movie? Of course you do, you’ve read our posts about flicks like Pilgrim’s Progress, The Scarlet Letter, Anna Karenina and Apocalypse Now. But in case you’re like me, and you forget everything you’ve read or seen within seven days (and that’s probably a generous time frame, I’m afraid) I’ll remind you: I like to be entertained.
So, did The Great Gatsby deliver? You bet, I liked it a lot.
And that’s about all I recall because it’s been more than seven days since we’ve seen it. And I don’t even have the good excuse of being on mega pain-killers. So, for the next few paragraphs, I’m going to do my best to reconstruct my movie memory.
But you should go see it! It was great! I loved it! Very entertaining! Trust me.
Oh, you thought I meant the movie! No, on the contrary – I heartily WOULD recommend it! My recollections (of the movie) are entirely pleasant. What I would not recommend is going to see the movie after spending 4 or 5 days in extreme toothache-y pain and then getting 2 teeth pulled. I guess I figured that after that amount of torture, I was NOT missing out on time with friends at a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing for months. So, after 2 extractions that afternoon, I snuck in a purse-full of gauze and an ice pack, bound and determined to have a good time.
Unfortunately, my recollections are vague and tinged with memories of replacing bloody gauze and trying to ice the area on and off every 20 minutes. So, listen to my wise and much more focused friends as they review The Great Gatsby. I’ll have to rent it when it comes out on video.
I leave you with the picture my daughter dared to take while I was in pain. Just so you believe me. (That’s a primogeniture trait, I believe. One doesn’t skip out unless one has a verifiable excuse.)
That’s the length of Apocalypse Now Redux, apparently the extra scenes in this 2001 definitive version of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 movie put it over the top. But it’s not the length that’s the shocker, it’s my final analysis that my send you into a tailspin. Brace yourself.
If you have to decide between reading The Heart of Darkness and watching Apocalypse Now, pop in the DVD.
No joke. Recommending a movie over it’s written source of inspiration is new to me, but I have some rationale to calm your worried countenance.
And last, but not least:
Friday night I was wild and crazy. I set up the portable DVD player in the kitchen and watched this movie while I prepped and cleaned up dinner.
It was revolutionary. Not the movie. The watching while washing dishes–that was revolutionary. Since I was multi-tasking, I grabbed an index card on which to scratch down some notes to share with you. These are by no means exhaustive. Fellow Blogger Christina and her husband also watched the movie. I hope they’ll add in the comments anything vital that I forgot.
It was not my favorite rendition of the story. I missed the force of the heath. Sure the book was dark and depressing with the heath killing off folks left and right, but if you are going to make a movie version of a classic–do it right! Stay true to the story!
Movies in the theater are still a novelty for me. Growing up they were Forbidden (although I may or may not have seen a few anyway), with very young children it’s hard to get away, and now I just have a hard time spending that much money on a 2-hour experience! So whenever I have the opportunity for a “cinematic experience,” I feel blown away. The sound, the color, the movement – it all combines into what is normally a bit overwhelming. This movie was no exception.
I’ll try to get a little deeper than just the visual experience. Let’s start with the positives:
1. I was impressed with the director’s unique and clever adaptions making it seem like the whole novel was a play…well, most of the novel, anyway…there were a few times they seem to have left this behind. I had read about this in a review and was skeptical. But it worked!
2. The dancing! Combined with the gorgeous costumes, it was truly a spectacle. There was one dance in particular that I will call “The Swan Dance” that was particularly gorgeous and sexy. I wonder if they made it up, or if there really was such a stylized dance of the time period. Tune in later once I do my research. Christine and her husband take dance lessons regularly. I suggested they learn that one – she just laughed at my idea. Wonder why?
3. Oblonsky became the comic relief of the play. It was nice to have this distraction from the rest of the drama. I giggled at his antics, facial expressions, posing, and just general dandy-ness.
Now for the negatives:
1. The under-emphasis on Levin’s spiritual journey. I think this is very important to Tolstoy and to a correct understanding of the themes of the book. The movie included many scenes with Levin and Kitty, but left out most of Levin’s angst and searching.
2. The (expected) shallowness of the characters as compared to the book. This always disappoints me. I KNOW that it is impossible to turn a 900+ page novel into a movie without leaving out much of the detail, but it still doesn’t stop me from wishing they could. A mini-series would be better. I was very glad I had read the book first – that way my brain could fill in all the gaps.
3. Levin’s general wimpy-ness. He was my favorite character in the novel, and the choices made in the movie just didn’t agree with how I pictured him. He looked pouty, childish, and indecisive most of the time.
All in all, I was entertained. It didn’t seem like 130 minutes. Time flew. I think they met the challenge of turning Tolstoy’s classic novel into screen-fare relatively well. I give it a B. But don’t take your children. The “R” rating was probably warranted. (Although less for violence than for sexuality. The worst violence was the peasant accident at the beginning, which looked rather fake to me. And the sex wasn’t completely gratuitous.) Rent it when it comes out on video and enjoy the spectacle. It’s a sparkly end to reading a very long, complex novel.
P.S. Sorry for covering some ground already covered in previous movie posts. Seems like we three think alike.
[Please imagine here a lovely picture of Christine and Jeannette standing by the giant AK movie cutout sign-board thingy. If you’re really imaginative you can see Jeannette pretending to kiss Vronsky. Too bad the picture is trapped on my phone.]
1.The ‘choreography’ of the opening scene. I have no idea how long it lasted – 15-20 minutes maybe longer? But the entire spilling of the original plot moves like a giant ballet. No, maybe an opera. Strike that, a musical. I felt as thought they would break into song at any moment. Well, some of the characters walking by did sing a little tune I found myself humming today. Oh, and the dancing! The dancing!
2. The actress that plays Kitty, and the adorable, memorable, romantic, yet real way she and Levin played out the initial game to confess their love. She sold me on the relationship, on her youth, on her goodness, and on love.
3. Vronsky. As I read the book I had one opinion of Vronsky: Jerk. There was probably more to him in the novel, but I kept my jerk-colored glasses on and didn’t permit any depth of character. As the movie progressed, I began to feel some sympathy for him, don’t get me wrong, he was still a jerk who did a jerky thing, but I believed his devotion to Anna more in the film than I allowed myself to believe in the book. Maybe his crooked baby blues just worked their magic on me, after all, it wasn’t in 3-D, so I didn’t wear any special lenses to view him this time around.
1. Dolly has a small role, and in her final scene she says something along the lines of, “I would have liked to do what you have done, Anna, but no one asked me.” Boo. Hiss. I want the real Dolly Oblonsky back.
2. In the end Levin tells Kitty he has discovered something, but they don’t even begin to let the watcher understand what it is. If you’ve read the book, you’re fine. If you have not, then it will be impossible for you to see the full contrast between the Anna and Levin storylines.
3. There was just not enough agricultural and economic theory and debate. Not enough of the travels to the health spas and Italian villas. Not enough about Russian politics and the war on the Serbs.
Um, do people still use that phrase, or did I just flash us all back to the 1990’s? I’m sorry, you see, I’m pretty easily pleased at the movies, I just like to be entertained, but I’m sure I can think of a third thing that I didn’t like. Oh! I’ve got it – Karenin’s little “going to bed” box. Yuck. Ick. Blech.
Trust me, you’ll soon be thanking me, because I’m here to spare you the two hours and sixteen minutes of torture that my husband and I just endured.
You see, we just watched the Demi Moore version of The Scarlet Letter.
The second clue came from the byline immediately following the title shot. It read, “Freely Adapted from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne.”
Note for future reference: Freely Adapted = Shares the Same Title.
The third encounter was an indication that the writing, not only the storyline would prove worse than mediocre. Hester greets her new Puritan friends with a quote from scipture, “As it says in Psalms 92 . . .”
Psalms? Yes, we went back and listened again. She said “Psalms 92.”
Okay, fine, we can forgive one Biblically ignorant writer, but then there was this carefully crafted doozy spoken by Dimmesdale, “I would risk everything . . . to spend a few moments alone with you . . . Hester, I love thee.”
Yes, he used you, and thee in back to back sentences. It happened again in later scenes.
The entire first half of the movie is really a prequel to The Scarlet Letter. It begins with Hester arriving on her own in the New World, quickly moves to her first glimpses of Arthur – skinny dipping in the local stream, fully nude from all angles, introduces Mrs. Hibbins and her lot of rebellious young women, and then speeds the lovers into each others arms with notice of Roger Prynne’s death.
Did you miss that in the book? They had “proof” that she was a widow, but due to Puritan laws she would still be unable to remarry for seven years. But the “proof” was all they needed to free their consciouses and land them horizontal in the piles of grain out in the barn.
Yes, they had to hide in the barn because Hester’s slave was in the house, having her own “special moment” in the bathtub with a bright red bird acting as voyeur. I know, there’s so much in that sentence to make you shake your head in disbelief, let’s concentrate on the slave.
Hester bought a mute slave, pretty handy, eh? Her name is Mituba. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking of Tituba, the slave from the Salem witch trial. Because at about the half-way point in this film it switches from being “freely adapted from The Scarlet Letter” to being “freely adapted from The Crucible.”
After the prequel portion of the movie is finished, and it seems doubtful that Hester and Arthur have the opportunity for showing a lot more flesh, the directors switch the focus to violence and accuse Mrs. Hibbins and her lot of being witches, and stage an uprising against the Indians.
Oh don’t worry, there is a little more flesh. Actually, it’s Moore flesh. She’s known for showing off her naked pregnant stomach, and this movie is no exception. I wonder if she had a stunt belly.
I’ll spare you the rest, but since the directors have already spoiled everything about the film, I might as well spoil the ending. It is most shocking.
It ends happily ever after. Hester and Arthur ride off into the sunset, Pearl at their side. The Scarlet A flicked carelessly into the mud.
But what could we expect? For there could be no other ending based on the most offensive element of the movie – the part I’ve saved for last. The worst, and let’s remember things have been pretty bad, but they worst part of the film is that Arthur and Hester do not feel that their adultery was, well, adultery. It was love.
Did you catch that? Let me rephrase, they feel they didn’t sin, but acted in the way in God’s design.
Horrible. It’s a must not watch.
Both Jeannette and Christina have reviewed versions of Oliver Twist. I decided to do what all the cool kids are doing and check out my own movie version of the classic. I went old-school with David Lean’s 1948 version of Oliver Twist. The back of the DVD says:
Expressionistic noir photography suffuses David Lean’s Oliver Twist with a nightmarish quality, fitting its bleak, industrial setting. In Dickens’ classic tale, an orphan wends his way from cruel apprenticeship to den of thieves in search of a true home.
My take? I liked the black and white version. Oliver is pitiful. The workhouse seems horrific. The Sowerberrys are there as are Noah and Charlotte. Mr. Bumble marries Mrs. Corney. Fagin’s gang is just as scruffy as it should be, and Fagin is truly wretched. Fagin’s makeup and false nose keep the viewer from recognizing actor Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi). Nancy takes the initiative to write to Brownlow about Oliver. There is only a brief mention of house-breaking. Sikes kills Nancy the way Dickens would have wanted. I was impressed with Bulls-eye’s trembling and cowering. Mr. Brownlow is a doting Grandfather. Yes, you read that correctly. Agnes was Brownlow’s daughter, making Oliver his grandson. This eliminates the need for the Maylies. Monks is in Lean’s adaptation. He’s out to get Oliver, but it’s a little unclear as to what his relationship to the orphan is. The story ends with Sikes being shot then hung as he falls from the rooftop where he has Oliver. The credits roll as Brownlow and Oliver walk hand-in-hand home.
I missed all the connections between characters. For that matter, I missed characters. Verdict? Entertaining, but like other movie versions of Oliver Twist, it was unfaithful to the novel.