Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why "The Great Gatsby" is Not so Great

How great was it?

What a connection! The definition for dud is "a thing that fails to work properly or is otherwise unsatisfactory or worthless". It also means "clothing". Not sure how that links up, but the duds in "The Great Gatsby" will not become the next big fashion trend.

Daisy and Leo
Daisy and Robert

The New York Times runs a column which singles out what is neither wonderful nor terrible. They call it the "Meh List". File "The Great Gatsby" under "meh". The movie wasn't as annoying as I was afraid (hated Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge"). It was neither realistic nor a fantasy. It was lush but hollow and way too long. Although miscast, the real problem was we never cared about the characters. Daisy was not worth yearning over. No wonder she didn't feel the same about him; Leonardo's Gatsby was, as they say, no Robert Redford. The only one with a pulse was the garage mechanic. And he spent the film in a dirty undershirt. If we don't care about people we certainly don't wish to emulate them.

Beginning to flap

The twenties were an amazing decade. It was the dawn of "youth culture". The early flappers were really rebellious teenagers, the first girls to come of age in such a permissive era. And the times they were a changin'. Women got the vote, cut their hair, shortened their skirts and went to work.

Chanel rocking her sailor look

Chanel became Chanel. We are still  influenced by what she started (despite Karl Lagerfeld having his little jokes with the archives). Just as everyone did not dress like a hippie in the '60s and '70s, not everyone was a flapper in the twenties. The idea of the '20s being one of languid, ladylike luxury still lingers. The frenetic party dresses flapping around "The Great Gatsby" on armies of unmemorable extras only makes me think of the bathtub gin hangovers those gals will have next morning.

Deals were made, of course. Brooks Brothers tied into the menswear, opening their archives to the costume designers and interpreting Gatsby's look for today, for a price. Tiffany took on the jewels, turning over their famous Fifth Avenue windows to the task and even masking the building in Art Deco taping.

A Tiffany Gatsby window
Tiffany taped

I still love the twenties— the color sense, the new ideas in dress and pursuits, the studied artifice of makeup and hair. After realizing Victorian and Edwardian times were basically brutal, the thirties were tough, and the war years were not to be envied, I still might like to drop down in the twenties for a visit. Next best thing is a charming book, "The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt" by Caroline Preston, a novel in pictures composed from the author's treasure trove of '20s ephemera. It's clever; it's charming, and I want that dress on page 141.

"The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt"


  1. Hmmm...very interesting. I've been really torn on seeing Gatsby or not, and I think after reading this, I'll put it firmly in the Netflix pile. Just last night, a stranger came up to me after she saw my arm of Bakelite bangles and just gushed and raved about Gatsby. She said I HAD to see it, that I'd LOOOVE it, but I can't stand a film that's all showy-flashy and no story, no heat. Plus I hated Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge...I couldn't even finish it, it irritated me so.
    Thanks for the review. Love your blog, by the way!!

  2. Thanks for your comments and nice words about the blog. I'll be curious if we both agree (after you do finally see the film).