Film Review: The Great Gatsby (old sport)

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29th May 2013.

I must profess to not having read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby recently, but I’m pretty sure that I have just seen the pop up book. Just like Leonardo DiCaprio’s mysterious Jay Gatsby knows how to throw a wild party, Baz Luhrmann certainly knows how to film one. Within minutes of the opening credits, we’re back to the hyper reality already established in Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge:  beautiful people, rapid edits, loud out-of-era music, rapid edits, champagne and partygoers jumping into swimming pools. Did I mention the rapid edits? Granted, they aren’t as headache inducing as in Moulin Rouge but there were moments where all I wanted was to take in this visual feast. Luhrmann clearly has an eye for beauty and detail, so why does he insist on ensuring that the lens doesn’t stay on anything long enough to enjoy it?

Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway arrives in New York City following his service in World War I and rents a house in West Egg, Long Island, right next to the Gatsby Mansion. Gatsby? Who Gatsby? What Gatsby? Throughout the first third of the film, DiCaprio’s enigmatic millionaire is consistently referred to as a mystery man. Although the host of elaborate parties, no-one knows what Gatsby looks like. Once Nick is invited to a party and becomes Gatsby’s “old sport”, this subplot is thrown out with several visual references to framed pictures of the “great” one adorning his mansion walls. The climax of the film also relies on a positive identification that shouldn’t have been possible.

Gatsby had a relationship with Carraway’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) before he was sent to war. Unfortunately Daisy is now unhappily married to the womanising Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). To win back his old flame, Gatsby has purchased the mansion across the bay from the Buchanan’s residence in East Egg, as you do. Luhrmann gleefully utilises CGI sweeping shots over the water to remind us of the futility of their love. Either that, or Baz wants to subtly hammer home the fact that The Great Gatsby is shot in 3D. To reunite with his former love, Gatsby throws lavish parties in the hope that she will somehow attend. He also uses Carroway’s familial connections to arrange a reunion. I’m not entirely sure how Gatsby knew that Nick was related to Daisy, but who cares, THE GREAT GATSBY IS SHOT IN 3D.

All of the lead performances are solid. DiCaprio has the charisma to overcome a script that has him say “old sport” too many times. Maguire is appealing despite a weak bookend subplot which undermines his character and does nothing to drive the plot forwards. Mulligan is radiant as Daisy, and Edgerton is appropriately nasty as the moustache twirling villain. Poor Isla Fisher and the talented Jason Clarke are sidelined in small supporting roles. Keep an eye out also for some of our most highly regarded actors in thankless tiny character parts. You can play the “Where’s Wally? The Great Gatsby edition” by looking out for Vince Colosimo, Steve Bisley, Max Cullen and Jack Thompson.

The Great Gatsby is a case of style over substance. Luhrmann’s Gatsby hyper world is certainly an exciting place to visit but he has failed to capture F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic on film. Instead he’s created the theme park ride of the book.

Published in: on May 28, 2013 at 19:28  Leave a Comment  
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Rewind Festival Wound Up

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th October 2011.

A few weeks ago I penned a column about the upcoming Rewind Festival, a two day music festival featuring an array of eighties acts planned for this coming weekend. Last Monday came the announcement that the event had been cancelled. There’s no doubt that this decision was due to poor ticket sales. This is bad news for the few who had purchased tickets and now have to scramble for refunds, and whilst the notion of a retro festival appears attractive, there are plenty of reasons why Rewind was doomed to fail from the beginning.

Firstly, the planned event location was too far from a major city to be viable. Bluescope Field in Kembla Range, near Wollongong, may have been an acceptable site for campers, however, for day ticket holders, who would have been the majority of attendees, the distance to travel was too great.

As the event date drew closer, an attempt was made to shift Rewind to the Hordern Pavilion. This is a good indication of how much the promoter’s expectations fell as ticket sales stalled. Bluescope Field has a maximum capacity of 30000 compared to the Hordern’s 5500. A promotion for two tickets for the price of one a month before the event was another ominous sign that sales were not going well.

I decided not to attend the festival as I didn’t fancy camping out in the elements, particularly if rain turned the grounds to mud. Perhaps my thoughts were indicative of the majority of Rewind’s demographic, Generation X’ers. I now find it difficult to stand through a regular two hour or so concert. There’s no way my knees would make it through a two day festival. Bring on the comfortable chairs and hotel rooms.

I also think that the night time is the right time for concerts. Darkness adds a ferly atmosphere to a gig and many of the Rewind acts were unfortunately scheduled to play under the sun.

The Rewind Festival has previously been a success in the UK. Of course, they have a much bigger population and a longer tradition of music festivals. In Australia, the festival scene is highly competitive. With The Big Day Out, Homebake and Splendour by the Grass soaking up the majority of festival dollars, smaller festivals have to virtually sell out to be feasible.

A strong Aussie dollar compared to the greenback also makes Australia more attractive to overseas based acts. Defunct eighties and nineties performers are reforming to cash in on an increasing demand and interest in all things retro. The successful Day on the Green franchise proves that Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers will pay top dollar to see quality retro acts alongside contemporary artists. Of course, most of these retro performers have a deep back catalogue of hits, which is more than could be said for most of the artists on the Rewind Festival bill.

The rise of MTV in the eighties led to many iconic music videos. These classic clips have been on constant rotation on TV ever since. Why would I want to see a much older Bananarama lip synch their way on a sparse stage through their biggest hit, Venus, when I can watch a much spunkier and younger group from the comfort of my living room?

So another music festival bites the dust. It’s a pity really. I would suggest to the promoters that an arena tour of the capital cities with a rapid fire format similar to the Countdown Spectacular concerts in 2006/07 would have been a much better choice.

Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 01:26  Comments (2)  
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