Sunday, June 2, 2013

‘The Mediocre Gatsby’ Owes Me $17

From today's Times and News-Star

 (The great Gatsbys, above: Redford in '74, LC in '13)

“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in one of his short stories. “They are different from you and me.”

No kidding. The rich can afford to go to the picture show these days without having to worry about how they’ll pay for tires. Or a double with cheese.

Jay Gatsby or Tom Buchanan or Daisy or somebody involved with the newest “The Great Gatsby” remake owes me an even $17. That’s $8.50 for my ticket, and I’ll stick them with the popcorn and drink, too. Why? Because the financially challenged are different from the very rich. The financially challenged don’t know what it means to “write off” stuff on their taxes, so we have to instead try to recoup our poor investments.

That’s Seventeen Big Ones. Cash or check will be fine. Or, a free pass to a show that is cast decently and doesn’t make me feel like I’m watching “One Life To Live” in the Copacabana.

It’s not Fitzgerald’s fault. His book’s good. And he passed away in 1944. Had he not, a viewing of this would surely have done him in. Or caused him to drink. More.

As usual when it comes to things involving nice cars, money and fishnet, I am in the minority. Yahoo’s BusinessWire reports: “…the worldwide total box office now stands at an impressive $165.1 million (minus the $17 they owe me) and counting” for the highly anticipated movie based on what has become Fitzgerald’s most-read novel, a standard on high school and college reading lists. Published in 1925, “The Great Gatsby” has done for the Roarin’ Twenties what cable television’s late-night commercials have done for Mel Street records and ginsu knives: kept them in the public consciousness.

Now that it pops into my head, the movie would have been better had they played less modern rap and pop and more tunes like Mel’s “Lovin’ on Back Streets (And Livin’ on Main).” They had ample opportunity: the aforementioned Tom, born rounding third base, took advantage of his family money, his pet pony and his ability to hit a polo ball to run around the with lady at the gas station. To Tom’s credit, his character at least fit the profile.

Elsewhere, there was miscasting galore. Daisy was close. I can live with Daisy. Tobey Maguire – and I love “Spiderman,” my favorite action hero (not counting Batman or Superman or Charley Pride) – was a drastic mistake as Nick Carraway, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who is my boy, was forced to say “Old Sport” more times than ballplayers say “you know” during interviews. Just about drove me crazy. In his defense, DiCaprio’s too-nervous and needy Gatsby stood little chance against Robert Redford’s portrayal in 1974. The only guy who could do Gatsby justice on screen after Redford is Errol Flynn, who is dead. But even if he were alive they’d have him in another “Robin Hood” picture or, worse, in “Fast & Furious 112.” DiCaprio should have either passed or asked to be directed by another “old sport.”

Kudos, however, to the famous green light and to the cartoon-looking landscapes and wide shots of the city and the bay. Gatsby’s house was another inviting comic book creation: imagine Graceland on steroids. And another A-plus for the neckties and the shirts.

But overall and at two hours and 20 minutes, the movie would be better named “The Mediocre Gatsby” or “The Overcooked Gatsby.” At least for my generation. Moviegoers 25 and under should love it. It’s “Bachelorette” meets “Real Housewives,” in 1922.