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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

Conflicting toy movies and two films to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day

Also: Anna, the assassin with a slight feminist bent and a Fakir’s international wanderings

Two comedies about women at work and a stunning documentary about an Aboriginal artist lead this week

And they’re joined by a musical look back, a fashion industry success story that didn’t last and the hipster zombie film that opened Cannes this year

Two giant sequels and several worthy smaller films reviewed

Including new appreciations of Emily Dickinson and Pavarotti, the real story of auto builder John DeLorean, a British filmmaker inspired to draw on her own life and two oddball seniors falling in love
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