Essay Second Acts In American Lives

Essay Second Acts In American Lives-58
The reasons that Fitzgerald’s Gatsby became a bootlegger, allied himself with the likes of Meyer Wolfsheim and bought his castle on the shores of West Egg were all illusions.No director hires Leonardo Di Caprio to have him occupy the margins of a story, but in subjecting both Gatsby and Di Caprio to the hard focus of conventional Hollywood, he strips both of their dignity.Nothing ever stops moving, racing, cutting, twitching—save for when Luhrmann suddenly shifts into slo-mo, for no apparent reason, or for reasons that betray his malformed feel for drama itself. That might explain the strategy of the movie, which seems a fairly contemptuous pandering to short attention spans, a disinterest in subtle storytelling, a primal response to something shiny being thrust before one’s eyes.

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From his lonely room, Nick flashes back to 1922, the delirious postwar period of Prohibition booze and Wall Street gone go-go.

Even Nick, a writer by avocation, has gotten into the bond business and winds up renting a house in West Egg across the bay from the more fashionable East Egg (think Hamptons).

“There are no second acts in American lives,” is one of Fitzgerald’s more famous and often quoted observations.

Nevertheless, in chapter Two, Beuka shows how the second act had come posthumously with the so-called “Fitzgerald revival” of the forties and the fifties and a renewed critical interest of (1945) were two posthumous volumes that sparked fresh public interest in Fitzgerald.

Luhrmann seems to regard Fitzgerald’s book the way hardcore martini drinkers regard vermouth: its inclusion is necessary, one supposes, if one is going to make this thing one calls a martini. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald is the only thing Luhrmann provides less of.

In telling a tale that found its transcendence in the holy place between the author’s nuanced prose and Gatsby’s blinkered dream, Luhrmann’s use of computer-generated stimuli is like a pneumatic hammer that has gone out of control and is manically pinging the brain-pans of everyone in the audience.Though I enjoyed reading John Anderson’s review, he begins and ends with the same mistake that many make who quote F. Fitzgerald is writing after the economic crash of 1929 lamenting a time that is gone, but acknowledging that the city moves on.Anderson’s review is in itself a substantial commentary, but he may have begun it and ended it differently if he had read Fitzgerald first.Having rendered some of the more majestic prose in American fiction, F. But America, by definition, is all about redemption. (It’s from Fitzgerald’s notes for The Last Tycoon). After all, Jay Gatsby—the wealthy, polished, slightly shadowy Horatio Alger-ish centerpiece of what well may be the finest American (and the most American) novel ever written—believes he can change the past with money. And that he fails to pull it off makes the book the glorious thing it is.Scott Fitzgerald is often cited for a line that has always seemed to me to make very little sense: “There are no second acts in American lives.” What? Second chances are the stuff American dreams are made of. Director Baz Luhrmann fails, too, in his shiny new, absurdist, big-screen 3D adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and there’s nothing glorious about it.In fact, it would be surprising if there were one real-life surface in the entire movie; and unless another “Hobbit” is released this year, Gatsby would seem a shoo-in as a nominee for Best Animated Picture.But the soullessness of the movie is not a result of those surfaces but of a profound lack of emotional depth, a decision on the part of Luhrmann to stimulate his audience rather than make them feel, based in a lack of faith in their sympathy or understanding.He was referring to the American experience in terms of dramatic structure—that the first act always led to the third, with no development in between.Or as an “act,” a routine, a well-practiced series of techniques and stunts, maybe even sleight-of-hand, all reflecting the artistic limitations and imagination of the performer in question. As he has already proved in the past, Lurhmann’s shtick is about filling the screen with the kind of vastness and flash that distracts from a lack of heart.It is this critic’s contention that the “spectacle” of computerized movies and 3D technology have taken all the awe out of cinema.If those technicians we refer to as studio filmmakers can do anything, then what difference does it make whether Gatsby’s parties are attended by hundreds or thousands? (The party scenes and their wretched excess are given a shot of energy by hip-hop maestro Jay-Z, one of the film’s producers, whose music in the film is an anachronism, but far from the only one).


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