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Decadence, Indifference, and Sacrifice – Baz Luhrmann’s Masterpiece “The Great Gatsby” Descends thanks to R+J (Part Two)

PART TWO of TWO

Mr. Luhrmann showed me that making an investment in a “passion project” where you integrate the film’s score, storyline, costuming, casting, scenic location for shooting, and soundtrack would create a media package that could NOT be denied by the masses (your intended audience).

It wasn’t until later when VHS tapes gave way to today’s Dvds (so that was probably after Titanic which was 1997) that I learned about his sacrifice which only heightened my appreciation for his maverick spirit.

“Moulin Rouge” became an instant classic using the formula Baz Luhrmann and his collaborators created for “R+J” and like all my college friends in Gainesville, we fell in deep love for the sweeping love story of Christian and Satine. It also highlighted the beauty, elegance, glamorous but ultimately tragic lifestyle of a Parisian courtesan (and probably any female entertainers who break into the industry on their own like Ms Monroe, Dandridge, Taylor, Carroll, Ross, and many others).

So to finally see the process of transforming the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic into film (I “liked” Luhrmann’ s production company on Facebook, getting regularly updated on the progress) was exciting in more ways than one.

If you don’t know the story about “Gatsby” the man, I will not spoil a detailed description of literature’s most fascinating characters in history (Othello and King Lear are a close second, in MY opinion).

What I can say is this …

Picture the most attractive and popular guy in your school. Imagine he has rich parents who are always away on business, leaving this only child to his own devices.

His friends get him to throw lavish and opulent parties every week of the school year where the entire school would get invited to. But only a handful of classmates got the privilege to ever MEET him, making him exceptionally mysterious (and maybe a little strange because who would REALLY have a party EVERY week of school and his/her parents wouldn’t ground them for … FOREVER!?!)

But parents remain absent in his life for some reason.

At one of these famous parties, The New Kid brings The Popular Girl as a platonic date. She is on a break from her possessive boyfriend who is the quarterback of the school football team. Ms Popular is really just using the New Kid so she can FINALLY go to the PARTY on her own terms.

There the two finally meet their mysterious host only to discover he was HER ex-FIANCEE years before.

Holy Soap Opera, Batman!

Eventually, Ms Popular longs to relive the life she had before the Quarterback was her boyfriend so she … has an affair with “Gatsby.”

At first, the sneaking around is exciting, romantic even. The New Kid was the “go-between” for the lovers, arranging their first visit at his house. He also is able to be Gatsby’s confidante, learning the secrets to his family’s millions.

It’s the decadence that is Gatsby’s mask, creating a whole world of privilege and champagne-soaked parties for his lover girl.

But does she appreciate him? Does she REALLY love him? Will she REALLY leave her quarterback boyfriend like she promises?

The answer lies in the film’s (and novel’s) resolution. But like many of Luhrmann’s gorgeous film history, good people don’t always make it … alive.

With its intoxicating soundtrack (executively produced by Shawn “Jay Z” Carter), new and familiar artists add new depths of pathos with such breakout hits as Lana Del Rey’ s “Young and Beauitful” and Emelie Sandi’s speakeasy cover of “Crazy in Love.”

So should you BUY this movie?

Hmmm… what do YOU think?

Laurean D. Robinson, MA

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Decadence, Indifference, and Sacrifice – Baz Luhrmann’s Masterpiece “The Great Gatsby” Descends thanks to R+J (Part One)

To write this review with the journalistic integrity I would expect from any writer in The Miami Herald, Miami New Times, and Entertainment Weekly, I can’t just jump right into describing the latest Baz Luhrmann production. That approach is almost too “elementary” (Sherlock Holmes would agree with me, I think).

I have a very unique perspective that will hopefully propel my scribblings into a larger stratosphere – I was a teenager when I saw “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet” after reading the play for the FIRST TIME at MAST Academy in Key Biscayne, FL that same year.

You’re probably wondering “What does THAT have to with ‘Gatsby’?

Let me explain . . .

Because my awesome DNA, I inherited my mother’s intelligence and developed my love of reading in the Gifted Program during elementary/middle school. My mother was my educational advocate and found my county’s most prestigious magnet PUBLIC school for high school in 1994 (and ever since, in my humble opinion) – Maritime Atmospheric & Science Technology (MAST) Academy.

There my English teacher, Mrs. Fairchild, challenged her ninth graders with our first play from the Bard that tapped into our collective frustration of parental obligations, platonic loyalties, exposure to community violence, and obsession with the dating world as hormone factories of emotion.

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I remember getting to “act out” preselected scenes in class. As luck would have it, I had to perform the famous balcony scene with a male classmate who DEFINITELY did not like in the same way Juliet liked her Romeo.  But because it was a grade, I became the award-winning actress to get my A.

By Spring, I remember seeing teasers on TV of this new film by a director with a weird and foreign-sounding name. I didn’t even had enough time to scribble it down to even look it up online (yes, kiddies, I had the Internet when I was 15).

As  school was coming to an end, I finally saw the entire trailer and (more importantly) the “players” of the play adaptation – Teenaged Leonardo DiCaprio (even his name sounds like he’s from Verona) and “My So-Called Life” Claire Danes!

Holy S@$&!!!

So naturally, I bought my ticket that summer (and its TWO soundtracks after seeing the movie).

What I saw in that movie theater transformed  who I was and how I would watch films for the rest of my life.

Baz Luhrmann validated my weirdness as a Broadway/theater geek (before Ryan Murphy knew to create Fox’s GLEE), my literary aptitude of classic literature and my embarrassing love of pop/alternative music – all in one two-hour plus movie.

It wasn’t until a few years  later that I could cultivate a language that could fully articulate this admiration. THANKS, Honors English III!

TO BE CONTINUED …PART II coming momentarily

Laurean D. Robinson, MA

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