Introducing: "The Pretentious Corner"

Inspirational Lubricant Du Jour: “Lagunitas Sucks”, American Double/Imperial IPA

Men,

(Let’s be serious: there are no ladies reading this now or ever.)

If Lee Powers is the Riggs of this soon-to-be “Error 404 Page Not Found”, then go ahead and consider me our resident Roger Murtagh, since (spiritually, at least) I’m probably too old for this shit. Still, I love scotch and mediocre news coverage just as much as the rest of the BroCast lads, so they’ve inconceivably decided to bring me aboard. Suckers.

I’ll be offending your eyes and values in this space on a weekly basis with a little feature I’ve decided to call “The Pretentious Corner.” Each week, I shall wax philosophical on some subject that only the most pompous of windbags would dare undertake. For your weekly dose of orotund oration: look no further.

For my inaugural post, I’ve decided to undertake my not inconsiderable anxiety vis-a-vis the upcoming film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

Let’s start with what the film has going for it: DiCaprio hasn’t been involved in a bad movie since Shutter Island, and even that wasn’t abominable. I trust him almost implicitly at this point, which is weird given, you know, The Man in the Iron Mask. Moreover, I’m glad that Baz Luhrmann is the man who’s been entrusted with the property. Moulin Rouge made clear that Luhrmann understands spectacle and decadence and can pull them off convincingly on screen. And make no mistake: this film needs decadence. The chief reason that the other film adaptation of Gatsby failed so miserably was that it was so flat. I can’t think of the right analogy for Bob Redford’s abysmally boring Gatsby adaptation, but I’m hoping Paul will offer something up in the comments. (There’s your cue, Paul. Redford’s film is to Gatsby as _________ is to __________). At the very least, we know Luhrmann’s film won’t be flat. I’m optimistic that Luhrmann exhausted his stores of literal and figurative flatness with Australia. Blech.

My chief worry is this: that the the muted, lyrical and remarkably understated style of Fitzgerald’s novel simply will not translate to the film medium. The whole problem with adapting Gatsby into other forms is that the story is almost entirely dependent ON the medium with which it was created. The novel’s majesty is chiefly to do with the way Fitzgerald captures the reckless excesses and endless cacophony of the 20s in prose that is soft, quiet and nuanced. Most importantly, the dichotomy never feels forced. Like a straight-muted trumpet that spends most of a jazz chart blaring, but quiets itself in all the right places, the novel is beautifully balanced. And Fitzgerald’s famous style is largely responsible. I don’t know that the same thing can be achieved on film, at least via adaptation.

The problem, it should be noted, isn’t inherent to the medium of film itself. I don’t mean to imply that film is somehow deficient or inferior to the novel in terms of storytelling potential. There are certainly filmmakers whose work is inextricably tied to the film medium in the same way that Fitzgerald’s is tied to prose. I would liken Fitzgerald to Terrence Malick in terms of an artist whose storytelling is dependent upon his chosen medium. Days of Heaven is a film that simply wouldn’t work as a book. The same is true of Tree of Life (which, you know, didn’t really work as a movie either. It shure was purdy, though.). Each storytelling medium has certain parameters that make it unique, and visionary creators can deftly exploit them. My main worry is that Gatsby simply won’t translate across storytelling media.

And then there’s the problem of Daisy. I’m not sure she’s actually portrayable on screen in anything resembling convincing fashion. She’s almost a wisp of a character, an apparition, an empty vessel through which Fitzgerald filters ideas. She’s a prism. I’m not sure anyone – let alone Carrie Mulligan (Paul? Thoughts?) – can portray her in a way that has people leaving theaters thinking “Yes. That’s Daisy. No doubt. Nailed it.”

In the end, I view The Great Gatsby (the novel) the same way I viewed Watchmen (the graphic novel) when Zak Snyder and co. took on the task of adapting the latter to film. Watchmen is almost entirely dependent upon the comic book medium for its beauty and power. Translated to film, even in a panel-by-panel way, it simply didn’t have the same power. This, I fear, may be the fate of Gatsby, which is similarly dependent upon its medium – the novel – for its awesomeness.

With a week to go, I’m excited and optimistic. And I’m mostly done thinking about it until I actually see the movie. And speaking of awesomeness: for now, I’m going to bide my time by eating a shitload of popcorn while watching Iron Man fuck shit up in all kinds of visually satisfying ways. Chea.

Yours in Brodigality,

P.D. Montgomery, Esq.

About P.D. Montgomery

P.D. Montgomery writes a weekly column for BroCast News on all things pretentious. His interests include tweed, wool ties and Basil Hayden's - which is better than whatever bourbon you like.
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