Audacious, ambitious, and provocative but uneven and ultimately unsatisfying, this long-delayed film adapts F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of class, love, and power, The Great Gatsby, to the present. Instead of Jay Gatsby, the gangster who can’t forget the girl he lost, we have Summer G, the gangsta, the head of a successful hip-hop recording label.
Richard T. Jones is commanding as Summer G, whose college romance with Skye (Chenoa Maxwell) ended when she married Chip Hightower (Blair Underwood), heir to a publishing dynasty. He has taken a house in the Hamptons not far from where the Hightowers have a home.
When Skye’s cousin Tre (Andre Royo) comes to interview Summer G, Chip asks him to cover for him so that he can see his girlfriend without Skye’s finding out. Tre refuses, until Chip reminds him that the magazine Tre works for is owned by Chip’s father.
Summer G then puts the same kind of pressure on Tre. He will not cooperate with the interview unless Tre helps him see Skye. Again, Tre refuses at first, then reluctantly agrees.
Summer G’s recording artists are staying with him. One who has not had a hit for a while becomes increasingly dependent on his girlfriend, who goes away for what she says will be just a few days and then stops returning his calls. Another becomes bitter and manipulative when she believes Summer G is not giving her the chance she deserves.
The Fitzgerald novel has plenty of material for an update that raises some contemporary issues of race and class and culture, but this film falters and misses the point and butchers the metaphors, turning a brilliant story into a soapy love triangle.
Jones has a commanding presence and Underwood does what he can with a cardboard cad of a character. But Royo is weak and Maxwell is hopelessly bad and the uneven, bumpy narrative and long delay between completion and release support the rumor that the movie has been recut following unssuccessful test screenings. Fitzgerald famously placed a green light on the dock in this novel. This review is intended to place a red light on any plan to see this film.
Parents should know that this movie has extremely strong language (including the n-word), drinking, smoking, drug references, sexual references and situations, and violence, including guns, with characters injured and killed.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Skye decided to stay with Chip instead of Summer G and how the movie differs from the original book.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the earlier film versions of “The Great Gatsby,” especially the with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and a television miniseries.