Great Gatsby in Blackface Gets a Gangsta Makeover
R for sex, expletives and brief violence.
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Andrew Lauren Productions/G Productions LLC
Film Review by Kam Williams Excellent (3.5 Stars)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, written in 1922, was a cautionary tale of Shakespearean proportions about the pitfalls of the blind pursuit of the American Dream. Narrated by the neighbor of a self-indulgent, self-made millionaire, this intricate tale of love and betrayal explored every excess of the Roaring Twenties: greed, ambition, passion, infidelity and more greed, all against the elegant backdrop of Long Island’s leisure class.
Leave it Andrew Lauren, son of designer Ralph Lauren, to come up with the idea of updating that classic, and adapting it as a modern-day morality play in blackface. This fairly-faithful version explores exactly the same themes, while putting an entertaining spin on the relationships among the principals.
The picture stars Richard T. Jones in the title role as Summer G, a gangsta’ rap mogul from the ’hood with a mansion in The Hamptons. Blair Underwood co-stars as a Chip Hightower, a bourgie brother who works for Merrill Lynch.
Chip is a shameless philanderer who cheats on his wife, Sky (Chenoa Maxwell), who just happens to be an ex-girlfriend of G’s. The blow-by-blow of all the action is narrated by Tre (Andre Royo), a reporter researching an article on the nouveau riche lifestyles of the newly arrived hip-hoppers.
What makes the movie most interesting is that it honestly addresses a variety of cultural issues currently being debated in the black community, thanks in part to Bill Cosby, including questions about class, conspicuous consumption, misogyny, family stability, and profane language. But the film is also easy on the eyes, thanks to some spectacular architecture and breathtaking vistas which come courtesy of its authentic Hamptons locations.
Among the supporting cast are the aforementioned author, Andrew Lauren, along with Laz Alonzo, Lalanya Masters, Nicoye Banks, and Jillian Lindsey as Daizy. A 21st Century celebration of decadence worthy of Fitzgerald.
Blair Underwood Interview