To write this review with the journalistic integrity I would expect from any writer in The Miami Herald, Miami New Times, and Entertainment Weekly, I can’t just jump right into describing the latest Baz Luhrmann production. That approach is almost too “elementary” (Sherlock Holmes would agree with me, I think).
I have a very unique perspective that will hopefully propel my scribblings into a larger stratosphere – I was a teenager when I saw “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet” after reading the play for the FIRST TIME at MAST Academy in Key Biscayne, FL that same year.
You’re probably wondering “What does THAT have to with ‘Gatsby’?
Let me explain . . .
Because my awesome DNA, I inherited my mother’s intelligence and developed my love of reading in the Gifted Program during elementary/middle school. My mother was my educational advocate and found my county’s most prestigious magnet PUBLIC school for high school in 1994 (and ever since, in my humble opinion) – Maritime Atmospheric & Science Technology (MAST) Academy.
There my English teacher, Mrs. Fairchild, challenged her ninth graders with our first play from the Bard that tapped into our collective frustration of parental obligations, platonic loyalties, exposure to community violence, and obsession with the dating world as hormone factories of emotion.
I remember getting to “act out” preselected scenes in class. As luck would have it, I had to perform the famous balcony scene with a male classmate who DEFINITELY did not like in the same way Juliet liked her Romeo. But because it was a grade, I became the award-winning actress to get my A.
By Spring, I remember seeing teasers on TV of this new film by a director with a weird and foreign-sounding name. I didn’t even had enough time to scribble it down to even look it up online (yes, kiddies, I had the Internet when I was 15).
As school was coming to an end, I finally saw the entire trailer and (more importantly) the “players” of the play adaptation – Teenaged Leonardo DiCaprio (even his name sounds like he’s from Verona) and “My So-Called Life” Claire Danes!
So naturally, I bought my ticket that summer (and its TWO soundtracks after seeing the movie).
What I saw in that movie theater transformed who I was and how I would watch films for the rest of my life.
Baz Luhrmann validated my weirdness as a Broadway/theater geek (before Ryan Murphy knew to create Fox’s GLEE), my literary aptitude of classic literature and my embarrassing love of pop/alternative music – all in one two-hour plus movie.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I could cultivate a language that could fully articulate this admiration. THANKS, Honors English III!
TO BE CONTINUED …PART II coming momentarily
Laurean D. Robinson, MA