Saturday, May 18, 2013

champagne and stars

At about 10:57 AM PST, my last AP free response booklet was collected by the test proctor. You guys, I AM DONE WITH AP TESTING FOREVER! This calls for some celebration.

have a glass of some virtual champagne and celebrate with me!

No (real) champagne for me though! I went to go see the Mo√ęt-fueled Great Gatsby instead. I know I blogged about my anticipation for this movie in my last post, but to be honest, I was a little hesitant to watch it in theaters at first; I contemplated waiting until the DVD comes out, especially because Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring is coming out next month and I can't afford to see both in theaters, but I ended up caving in for Gatsby after all. 

And you know what? Despite the mixed reactions I've heard from people I've talked to in the last week since the premiere, I thought it was brilliant. Afterwards, when my friends asked me how the movie was on the way back home (they'd gone to see Star Trek: Into the Darkness instead), I told them that my spoken words wouldn't be able to do my opinions justice; here, let's see if my written words do a better job.

I should start by saying that it wasn't perfect. I didn't expect it to be—few things are. The amount of buzz this production created in the months before it finally hit theaters generated excitement, sure, but it also set the bar and expectations pretty high and up for criticism as well. But because I generally enjoyed this film, I want to talk about the things I loved about it.

First, I thought that Luhrmann captures the essence of the 20's brilliantly. Of course it was loud and smoky and jewels dripped from the throats and wrists of pretty women; the excess was chaotic, the people were feverish, and there was a war going on—not the war that had just been fought in Europe half a decade before, but a war inside the American spirit born of a newfound wealth and dreams still unrealized. Those of a certain age and generation thought they were invincible, inventing rules that those who came before couldn't understand—just like youth today and every decade. The struggle between Gatsby and Tom Buchanan is very much a struggle of generations as well as of money; the stark contrasts in the elaborate, no-expense-spared sets make you both gawk at the indulgent splendor of Gatsby's West Egg mansion and sneer at the pretentiousness of Tom's East Egg residence. 

Of course, while Fitzgerald's characters weren't meant to be likable, I could almost believe in Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of Jay Gatsby's great American dream and Carey Mulligan's foolish Daisy Buchanan. Almost. I normally don't have a problem with characters that are hard to like: arrogant and excessively wealthy? Love it. Beautiful and vain? Even better. I like my stories the same way I like my fashion: bold, pretentious, and a little bit fantastical. And yet, the acting by the cast of this adaption fell a little short for me: the characters were almost too likable and too pitiable, all ambitious dreams and innocence in a world filled with vice.

But oh, how beautiful everything was! Every scene, from the billowing white curtains when we first meet Daisy and Jordan to the haunting eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg in the waste land between Manhattan and money, was absolutely breathtaking. But it was a different kind of beauty than Fitzgerald's prose: while the latter is celebrated for his unrivaled lyricism, Luhrmann's screenplay failed to translate the true beauty of Fitzgerald's novel into the big screen. Instead, his movie succeeded on a different aesthetic level entirely.

And speaking of aesthetics, the soundtrack was incredible! I had been listening to Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" on repeat in the weeks leading up to the premiere, and I was very happy with how it had been played in the movie. Not only did it underscore Gatsby's obsession with loving Daisy in the fairytale that he had dreamt, but it also evokes a question of beauty and youth and its transience, a theme Fitzgerald explores in all of his novels, and one of a few themes I plan on studying more about for my final author study paper for English Lit.

Yup, I still have a few more weeks of finals and papers, but I have a feeling that it'll go by pretty quickly. It's a bit strange and bittersweet to think that high school is ending soon and I'll be hundreds of miles away in college at the end of August. I don't think I've mentioned it to you guys, but I've committed to UC Berkeley. Go bears!

xoxo, vivian


  1. Thks for coming by Luxury Haven & leaving your wonderful note! Love your shots in the blog; awesome sharing! I'm following u at GFC now & looking fwd to sharing. Have a great day!

  2. ill check out Gatsby ;-) thanx for leaving your comments on my blog.

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  4. I watched the great gatsby and almost cried during the lana de rey song, some of my friends went daisy is such a whore bla bla bla. Congratulations on finishing your tests! Those champagnes look beautiful! Anyways sorry if i make typos here since im typing with an ipad mini which is hard as hell. I just stumbled through my old posts a d found your super love,y commet. So sorry i havent replied in ages! You really are a sweetheart! Xx

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