The Great Gatsby parties wild, Blackbird finds paranoia and jail, Kon-Tiki re-creates a perilous ocean voyage

Leonardo DiCaprio is the upward-climbing  nouveau riche The Great Gatsby

Two films this week dissect the American Dream, one in the corn fields of Iowa the other among the super rich of Long Island. But please notice a small Canadian film called Blackbird. It’s more real and relevant.

Here’s the whole list:

The Great Gatsby: 3 out of 4

Blackbird:  3 ½

Kon-Tiki:  3 ½

At Any Price:  2 ½

Peeples:  not previewed

THE GREAT GATSBY: This one should resonate with some people today. After all it’s about a love-struck man who imagines he can attract his woman with ostentatious wealth.  Bling, maybe? And she espouses a philosophy fit for a celebrity-crazy, narcissistic era: “That's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."

The parties are glitzy and since the time is the Roaring 20s alcohol is illegal, though as popular and widely available as marijuana today. And director Baz Luhrmann pours it out lavishly along with all that color and movement and 3-D images. So why does the movie not deliver more zing?



For once thing, we’re not as emotionally involved as we should be.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan are a nice couple but not really hot. She seems too young for him and he skimps on the heartbreak and yearning that must be driving him. As a man of mystery, he’s not all that mysterious, or maybe we’ve just seen too many other stories like this since F. Scott’s Fitzgerald wrote the classic novel.  The view of the callous super rich doesn’t seem as caustic today and the film could have spent more time with the people they use, like tragic Myrtle Wilson. Her world is as carefully envisioned as that of the rich folks but underused.    


So, we’re left with a great looking movie in which Luhrmann flaunts his excessive visual style in a few places (for instance, the fireworks that fill the sky when Gatsby first appears) but actually restrains himself much of the time. He seems content with slight exaggeration and stays largely true to the novel. (Except that Tobey Maguire, as Nick Carraway, now isn’t writing and narrating the story of "the single most hopeful person I ever met," by his own choice. It’s on the advice of a psychiatrist. Discuss that one, if you can).  And of course, Luhrmann’s all-era music choices are there as usual, not as stridently as in  Moulin Rouge, but  under the organization of rapper Jay Z, lively and surprising anyway. The film has those qualities too, in part. (The Park, Dolphin and several suburban theatres) (3 out of 5)     

BLACKBIRD: Think for a minute about the many bad films about teenagers that come around and then take in this good one from Nova Scotia. So good that it’s won big awards from both the Toronto and Vancouver film festivals and the recent Canadian film awards. It’s a study of one outsider teen boy who stirs up a mess of paranoia in a small town and pays the price.


More in New Movies

Local kid gets potty mouth in Good Boys, British teen is musically Blinded by the Light and a stunning history is uncovered

And in other films: Octavia Spencer accuses, Cate Blanchett breaks down, Julianne Moore manipulates, Leslie Jones faces the Angry Birds and four teen girls attract sharks

Women mobsters in The Kitchen, country ways in Honeyland and TV journalism as Mike Wallace did it

Also: stardom as David Crosby endured it, a dystopian tale and a wise dog yarn, both filmed in Vancouver, and two more that I haven’t seen

Big and dumb Hobbs & Shaw; smart Amateurs and a director's story and dreams in animation

And more: a calming Little Forest, a Free Trip to Egypt to connect with Muslims and two Film Noirs by a woman director
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