There’s usually some type of charm about old movies. During the first moments, you’re transported back to the era; you suddenly want to start speaking in that almost-British accent that Americans once seemed to possess. When I started watching the trailer for the remake of The Great Gatsby, I expected the same thing. But, as the first song began to play, I instead felt as if I was at a 1920’s costume party in 2012. There was no sense of timelessness. In 30 years, people will probably look back at this film and think “it’s sooo 2012.”
Good movies, like everything else, have a formula. If you look at the list of films that have won the prestigious “Best Picture” award in the last couple of decades, you will quickly notice a pattern. First, many are large productions, sweeping scenery, and big budgets. Next, the same names will scroll in the credits—actors like Meryl Streep, Marlon Brando, directors like Steven Spielberg, and Kathryn Bigelow more recently. Third, and this is certainly not a requirement, the film will be about a certain historical time. Just in the past 30 years, films that have won “Best Picture” include: The King’s Speech, Gladiator, Titanic, The English Patient—the list goes on and on. Last but certainly not least, many of these epic tales are born from a great story or novel; this is true for many of the “Best Picture” elite, though sometimes this tie goes unnoticed. Some digging will reveal that even the Cohen Brother’s No Country for Old Men comes from a short story.
Now, we face Gatsby. Automatically it’s a contender. It has the potential for large, sweeping scenery; the names in the credits are some of the greats of my generation with serious potential (Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, and Leonardo DiCaprio, and director Baz Luhrmann). The story itself follows to a tee the best picture formula—it’s about a particular time in American history, and is based off of one of the most beloved novels of all time. Though some may say this factor brings the film into dangerous territory, I would argue that it instead gives the film a very large base audience. Needless to say, the creators set the bar high.
From the initial trailer, I think they the film will fall short. From the music, the brief party scenes, and the costumes, it seems like the creators of Gatsby are trying to make the story modern, and trying to make it new and relevant to a younger generation. But they didn’t need to do that. People in my generation love Fitzgerald’s classic novel because of the message, “the boats born ceaselessly into the past.” Perhaps the creators missed the point. Instead of avant-gardism, people seek and expect a classic in The Great Gatsby. Hopefully this is what the film will give us.