Less Than Zero

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Warning: Contains spoilers

Less Than Zero movie poster

Less Than Zero movie poster

Less Than Zero was released in 1987 and is very loosely based off of a novel by Bret Easton Ellis of the same name. The film looks at wealthy life in 1980s Los Angeles and the effects of drug abuse. The film has a 6.1 out of 10 on IMDb and a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is rated R for language, some violence, nudity, sexual content, drug abuse, adult situations, mature themes, and graphic scenes of drug withdrawal.

Clay (Andrew McCarthy), a college freshman, returns home for Christmas, but a lot has changed since he was last in L.A. Clay’s high school girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), and their mutual best friend, Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) are now together and Julian has become a heavy drug user. The reason that Clay came back home was after an insistent request from Blair worrying about Julian because of his drug habit and being hassled by his drug dealer, Rip (James Spader), because of a debt of $50,000. The film focuses on Clay ending up back with Blair and the both of them trying to help Julian clean his act up.

I love watching movies from the 80’s and had always wanted to see this film, so when I saw it was on HBO one day, I jumped at the chance to finally see it. This movie, like I mentioned at the beginning, is based off of a novel. I haven’t read the novel, so I can’t really compare it to the film. I’ve only read American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction, both by Bret Easton Ellis, and I’ve seen the movies based off those books. However, even though I haven’t read the book, I did read in a article that Bret Easton Ellis didn’t like the film very well and that the film is very different than the book.

Happier days...before drug abuse. (From Left: Julian, Blair, and Clay.)

Happier days…before drug abuse.
(From Left: Julian, Blair, and Clay.)

After watching this movie, I did like it, but at the same time it isn’t going to be a movie I watch all the time, like other movies from the 80’s that I like a lot. I thought the acting was alright, but with the exceptions of Robert Downey Jr. and James Spader. They were both pretty good. Robert Downey Jr. really knocks it out of the park with this one. This film shows really well what can and will happen if someone becomes a drug addict. The character of Julian ends up dying in the end. Even though you get the feeling that something bad is going to happen to Julian, it still is a bit of a shock when he actually dies. The other “scary” thing about this film is that Robert Downey Jr. has said that the role of Julian “was like the Ghost of Christmas Future.” If you are unaware, RDJ became involved with drugs and ended up getting arrested multiple times on drug related charges. So, to look at how Julian ends up in the end and to think that if RDJ had not cleaned up his act, there is a chance he would no longer be here.

I think it’s safe to say that I would definitely suggest this movie. It’s interesting to see RDJ in his younger days (I haven’t seen too many movies of his back when he was younger) and to see how life almost imitated art. If you like 80’s movies, especially ones that include members of the “Brat Pack“, then give this movie a shot.

 

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The Great Gatsby

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the-great-gatsby-poster1The Great Gatsby (2013 version) was directed by Baz Luhrmann, the same guy who directed Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. The film is rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.

Well, where to begin? I have a lot to say about this new take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book, but I’ll try not to write too much. This film has had so much controversy and hate surrounding it ever since people found out it was going to have modern music in it. I think that’s just ridiculous. I mean, come on, Baz Luhrmann directed it. What did you expect?

When I saw this movie for the first time on opening weekend (in 3-d) I went into the theater with an open mind. I re-read the book before seeing the movie and re-watched the 1974 Great Gatsby so I would be able to see how closely this version of the film followed the book and how it compared to the 1974 version. The whole modern music thing did not outrage me as much it seemed to have other people. I wasn’t about to judge a movie I hadn’t seen yet. But, you know what? I think the soundtrack worked really well in the movie. It fit the scenes perfectly. From what I’ve read on IMDb message boards, a lot of people keep saying the modern music was a distraction. But, that’s their opinion. In my opinion, the modern music was in no way whatsoever a distraction and the film had a great blend of the songs that are found on the soundtrack and actual 1920’s music. As far as the rap/hip-hop songs in the film go, well…Hip-hop is about the closest thing to jazz we have nowadays. What hip-hop is for people nowadays is what jazz was for people back then. Plus, it’s not like the entire soundtrack is nothing but rap. The songs are sung by modern singers, but some of them almost have a 1920’s kind of sound to them. I still don’t understand the hate people are having with the music. I don’t remember anyone being in an outrage with all the modern music in Django Unchained. I’m pretty sure no one in the Old West was listening to Jim Croce or James Brown. Baz Luhrmann made some original, creative choices when making this film and to me, those choices were executed really well. To get the point across of what the 1920’s were like (sex, booze, partying, complete carelessness and carefree ways) some changes were to be made to make it more enjoyable to modern audiences. When watching the 1974 version, during the party scenes, classic 1920’s music is playing and that’s cool and all, but after seeing the 2013 version and watching the party scenes with loud, modern dance music with a slight 1920’s twist, I feel like I now fully understand what it was like to be living in the 1920’s. Anyways, my favorite songs on the soundtrack are: “Over the Love” by Florence + The Machine, “Young & Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey, “Love is Blindness” by Jack White, and “Together” by The xx.

This movie is loud, colorful, and crazy (but in a good way). Visually this movie is wonderful. Yes, there’s CGI, but a lot of movies nowadays have a lot of CGI. Acting is superb. I actually found myself feel for the characters, care about what happens to them. Coming from someone that has read the book more than once (it’s one of my favorite books), this movie followed the book soooo much better than the 1974 version. Not that the 1974 version didn’t have direct quotes from the book, but the new version had a lot more direct quotes from the book and just about every scene in the new film was taken straight out of the book. As in, there weren’t numerous scenes in the film that maybe had the same dialogue as the book, but was taking place in a totally different environment. This version also does a better job at explaining some things (like how Jay and Daisy met, etc.) than the 1974 version. The one thing that is definitely not in the book are the scenes of Nick at the sanitarium. It might not be in the book, but it makes sense with why this guy would be telling this story about a guy named Gatsby. Making it seem like Nick Carraway is the author of The Great Gatsby is not completely far-fetched as some people think that Nick is based off of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I can definitely see that. There is a line in the book (that is in the movie, too) where the narrator, Nick, makes a comment about “reading over what I have written so far.”

My favorite performance in the film was definitely, hands down, Leonardo DiCaprio’s. His portrayal of Jay Gatsby was spot-on with Gatsby from the book. Not that Robert Redford is a terrible actor or anything (I remember when I watched the 1974 version in high school after reading the book I thought Robert Redford did a good job in the movie), but after seeing Leo’s take on Gatsby, I won’t be able to watch the original the same way again. I also thought Carey Mulligan’s performance was much more preferable compared to Mia Farrow’s. Newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker gave a good performance. Lois Chiles as Jordan in the 1974 version I thought was alright, but with her, as well as Sam Waterston’s performance of Nick Carraway, I felt was not very developed. Jordan and Nick in the original film seemed to always have the same expression and monotone-like voice throughout the entire film. I liked Tobey Maguire’s take on Nick Carraway. I do like Bruce Dern as Tom in the original, but Joel Edgerton definitely did a good job as Tom, too. One of the things that irks me with the original version is the lack of chemistry between Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan definitely have better on-screen chemistry.

I saw the film in both 3-d and 2-d. The 3-d doesn’t really add much, but it does give the viewer the feeling of really being a part of the movie, which is the point of 3-d…obviously. I loved this movie. When reading the book, I had an image in my head and the 2013 version has fulfilled what I imagined while reading the book. What I will suggest when seeing this movie is keep an open mind. Do not go see it already hating what you’ve seen from the trailers and the modern music. Keep an open mind! If you don’t like this version or the 1974 version, well, there’s always the 1949 and 2000 version, neither of which I’ve seen.

Last tidbit…One of my favorite scenes in the new version is when Jay and Nick are waiting for Daisy to come to Nick’s place for tea and how nervous Jay is acting and even after Daisy and Jay are reunited, Jay still acts nervous. Leo did such a good job during that scene and that entire scene and dialogue is just like how it is in the book. I love it when movies follow the books their adapted from closely… 🙂

Remember, keep an open mind when seeing this film, old sport.