This review may contain spoilers.
As of this writing, there sits only four, five-star rated films in my Letterboxd.
But I knew it was a five star film when Gatsby (Timothée Chamalet) went over by the piano, and turned on the light—the shadows of the room visibly changed on screen—and he played Everything Happens to Me and Chan (Selena Gomez) heard him from the other room; and then they began talking and she went over to the window, and it was dark and cloudy outside, shrouding the room in that mid afternoon gauze only typical to NYC.
The conversations flowed. His humor and wit was cynical, prosaic, young and dreamy. The acting was superb on Chamalet’s part. You feel exactly what he’s thinking because he’s the imitation of us (of Woody, really, who is the wandering New York artistic soul). That Woody Allen could even write such a damn thing so late in his life is so sad and brilliant.
He sets up the ending perfectly. That’s what the whole film is leading up to. The commercialism everyone is waiting for. With 7 minutes to go, he packs the most eventful scenes I’ve ever seen. He misses no beat, writes in no fillers, and everything is right where it needs to be.
There are many favorite scenes to pick from and graze on. One such moment was when he was sitting alone at the piano bar and he talks to himself, catching a hooker’s attention just a table away. “Are you talking to me?” she asked. “I was actually talking to myself.”
But he didn’t mind her company. How could he? He tells her:
“I didn’t wanna drink in my room alone. I’ve been coming here since they used to only serve me ginger ales by law. I love the piano players. And now I’m old enough to order gin and vermouth.”
“Time flies,” she says.
When he responds with, “Unfortunately it flies coach,” she didn’t understand.
You can feel the idiocy he’s surrounded with, which seems his biggest dilemma from the beginning of the film—his need for simple, but degenerate pleasures: “I’m a gambling man.” Why is he so good at gambling? Because money is nothing to him. His best poker face is the artistic misery that comes with a misfit like him. He’s able to fool everyone. You can see that when he wins against those guys in NYC. He’s not even thinking about the game. It’s ironic, but he’s unemotional. The emotion he feels from being unloved is greater than his emotion for something as “pretentious and phony” as money. That’s why he loves gambling. Not because of luck, or winning.. but because it’s the one place he doesn’t have to try hard to fit in. It’s everyone else that doesn’t belong.
As a friend observes, his mother is the perfect juxtaposition of his having to fit in, albeit with repulsion, because you can tell he was raised by being forced to fit into her socialite lifestyle. But this is also exactly why he’s so intelligent and doesn’t belong. On the one hand, he’s repulsed by the social scene of his mother; but on the other hand, without it, he wouldn’t be the eccentric character searching for what he finds most meaningful.
You can see on his face when sitting with the hooker, not the disappointment from being misunderstood, but how he’s misfit for even a city he adores, another reminiscence to when Chan says that he “doesn’t belong” and that’s why she always liked him.
“It means it’s uncomfortable,” he tells her. This piano bar scene is a foreshadow of him leaving Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) when she mistakes his quoting a jazz standard, Night and Day, for Shakespeare! Of all things.
“In the roarin’ traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room.”
Do you know how those lyrics finish? The entire verse is:
“Night and day, why is it so
That this longin’ for you follows where ever I go?
In the roarin’ traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you day and night.”
Originally reviewed on Letterboxd.
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