The Great Gatsby REVIEW
Director – Jack Clayton
Cast – Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Sam Waterson, Scott Wilson
The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is required reading in many schools, and has made its mark on many writers since its publication in 1925, despite its original unpopularity. It is now seen as a classic American novel.
I have found that adapting books into films is usually done for one of two reasons. One, that the book is popular and would make a large profit based on its popularity, or two, that the book is very good and would work well within the cinematic format. Unfortunately I think the motive in this case was the former, even though the book is certainly good enough for the latter.
The production in general is drab, uninteresting, and very much in the line of TV movies. While the story is dealt with in a fairly efficient manner, it is told with such a lack of energy that it becomes boring.
The actors in almost every case are either bad or miscast. Robert Redford is terrible for the part of the withdrawn and somewhat bitter Gatsby. It reminds me of the story (possibly true) of when Redford wanted the part in The Graduate that would eventually go to Dustin Hoffman. When he questioned why he didn’t get the part, the director asked him if he’d ever “struck out” with a girl. Redford asked “What do you mean?” The director said “Exactly.” The point being that Redford is too good-looking and too charismatic to play a loner whose girl wouldn’t wait for him when he went to war. He does his best, but essentially can’t get past his own style.
The only actors who get out of this unscathed are Sam Waterson and Scott Wilson. Sam plays the movie’s narrator, the man from whose eyes we see the story. Scott Wilson plays George Wilson, a simple man who owns a garage and is constantly put upon by the upper class folks. Both these actors are natural yet add a welcome sense of urgency to the story.
In the end the only thing that keeps the movie going is that it is based on such good source material. There a couple good shots that piqued my interest though. One (which is repeated several times) is a shot of Gatsby’s pool and house, featuring blue and white curtains waving idly by the topaz water and white marble columns. It is a wonderfully mood-setting shot. The other thing is “the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg”, a sign which looms over the road to New York. This famous image from the book is replicated perfectly here.
The cast and plodding pace of The Great Gatsby is really what stops it from reaching its potential. The story is good, but isn’t allowed to soar. Robert Redford is miscast awfully, and Mia Farrow overacts as the ditsy Daisy. As an adaptation of a classic work of literature this movie falls well below what it could have been, but because of the good source material it manages to scrape by as a watchable movie.
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Wuthering Heights REVIEW
Director – Peter Kosminsky
Cast – Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Janet McTeer, Jeremy Northam, Jason Riddington, Jonathan Firth, Simon Shephard
Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights has been adapted for the screen a few times. Actors from Laurence Olivier to Tom Hardy to Timothy Dalton have taken on the role of Heathcliff; a character who is at the top of the pile when it comes to dark, brooding, tragically romantic figures. Ralph Fiennes plays the role in this film, and he is in my opinion the best Heathcliff yet.
The film itself it done very well on the technical side. The cinematography is perfectly suited to the rough and wild love story, and we get some breath-taking views of the moors. The music is haunting and tragic, perfectly fitting both the images and storyline.
The lead actress, Juliette Binoche (who plays a double role in this movie, of mother and, later on, daughter) is very good, making a great pairing with Fiennes. She perfectly distinguishes between her two characters, yet still reminds us why Heathcliff would be haunted by their similarities. Supporting actors do well, Jeremy Northam and Janet McTeer being the standouts.
The reason some would be turned away by the movie is the melancholy and melodramatic story line. If done the wrong way we would have a train wreck of a movie, but here it is given just the right touch. We believe the characters have such hatred or love for each other, and the performances help as well. The ending is haunting and heart breaking.
This is a great romance in the Old Hollywood tradition. It really is emotionally engaging, and though some may feel it goes over the top in some areas, it still holds the viewers attention. Recommended to anyone with a fairly open mind.
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Director – Richard Attenborough
Cast – Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger, Joseph Mazzello, Edward Hardwicke
Shadowlands follows C. S. “Jack” Lewis (the author of, among other things, the Narnia series) and his relationship with Joy Gresham, an American fan and later, his wife. It is a rare romantic drama where both figures are in at least middle age, and where romantic love is treated in a mature and deliberate way. Their actions are thought about, discussed, and deliberated. Richard Attenborough, who directed this, (and one of the greatest World War II movies, A Bridge Too Far) has a wonderful directing style. He presents us with a series of events and characters and lets them influence us, instead of taking some events and jazzing them up and shoving them in our face. The result is a real, thoughtful, moving experience, instead of fake manipulation.
Anthony Hopkins as C. S. Lewis is, in some ways, a strange choice. He doesn’t look alot like him, except perhaps when he wears the glasses. But he performs well, presenting us with a man who pretends to be sure of everything, but really has many doubts. Debra Winger plays the American woman with whom C. S. Lewis falls in love, and shows us a brash, confident woman (apparently an extension of her own personality.) The son is played well by Joseph Mazzelo, and C. S. Lewis’ brother, Warner, is played by the criminally under-rated Edward Hardwicke (some may know him as the second actor to play Watson to Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes series.)
This is an emotional movie, but in a restrained way, and that will turn some people off I think. However, I found its sense of restraint to be the best thing about the movie. It’s beautiful in a realistic way, not the bloated “romanticism” of most Hollywood movies. I believe the best way to describe it is that this is a very English movie. Stiff upper lip, restrained, yet sweetly endearing underneath. I found it to be wonderful, but viewers used to more simmering romance or a quicker pace may not enjoy it as much. It is unfortunately, their loss.
This is a good movie, if a bit drawn out. It offers thoughts about the nature of love and loss, and should be enjoyed by anyone with a bit of patience. Another good, solid movie from frequent collaborators Richard Attenborough and Anthony Hopkins (A Bridge Too Far, Magic, Shadowlands, Young Winston, and Chaplin.) Recommended.
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