The Gatsby Smile


He smiled understandingly–much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

You may recall that, back in late-summer 2012, we got ourselves fired up for the Baz Luhrmann-Leo DiCaprio Gatsby. Also: we wondered last spring if Leo could successfully enact the smile.

Well, the DVD landed (in the Franklin County library). And it turns out we wondered about the wrong things.

IMHO: Leo crushes it. Absolutely tramples all over it, like the flag of an enemy nation. Makes Robert Redford (his only rival as a movie Gatsby)–Leo makes Robert Redford look like a piker, a glib flounderer, a shell.

Great Gatsby 2012 posterI don’t weep at movies. That’s documented. I wept for Leo. Wept for his false and misdirected hope that deserved to be true.

It was actually the Luhrmann flourishes (which we thought, after Romeo + Juliet, that we could take to the bank)–it was Luhrmann’s gussying up the movie that came off as stupid. Waste of time and energy, the dancing girls and party sequences, the castle, the stylized Eckleburg ashpits, the car chases, and the cartoon cityscapes. Mere distractions from Leo’s and Carey Mulligan’s incandescently mesmerizing acting. The two of them could perform the script on an unadorned stage with no props, and it would be every bit as interesting as the movie.

Tobey Maguire sporting beard growth to communicate ‘depressed’ made me laugh. He should leave his ‘deep, soulful’ voice out. The whole sanitorium bit–what was the point? On-screen supertitles of the famous lines of the book? Please. Dumb.

But: We thank you, everyone associated with making this movie–we, the entire staff and crew of this little weblog, we thank you for giving us a movie version of The Great Gatsby (the most movie-make-able novel ever written)–we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving us a movie that not only does not suck, but is actually, really, truly good.


One thought on “The Gatsby Smile

  1. Father Mark,

    The mind is the most exacting, inexact storytelling machine. Thus, few movies live up to the books from which they sprang. It used to be that every movie was derivative of a book I had read. Not any more (not enough reading going on)! The best that can be hoped for is that the artists (the whole collection of them, as you have noted) come up with a work that stands on its own. Having said that, I’d love to read Bella.

    In God we trust.



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