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2002, Movie, R, 97 mins

Review

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A hip-hop reimagining of The Great Gatsby that fails both as an update of F. Scott Fitzgerald's dissection of American aspirations and class barriers and on its own boorish terms, this shallow tragedy of manners was conceived by Andrew Lauren, the son of designer Ralph (who, coincidentally, costumed the 1971 remake of GATSBY). Journalist Tre (Andre Royo) is assigned to profile self-made rap mogul Summer G (Richard T. Jones) for "True Flow" magazine. G is summering in the Hamptons, surrounded by bodyguards, hangers on and protégés, including girlfriend Daizy Duke (Jillian Lindsey), who's agitating to make the transition from rapping to singing; Craig Lewis (Laz Alonso), who hasn't had a hit in two years — much to the dismay of his material girlfriend, Nicole (Lalanya Masters); and up-and-comer B. Mo Smoove (Nicoye Banks). Tre's beautiful, refined cousin, Sky Hightower (Chenoa Maxwell), and her husband, philandering businessman Chip (Dorian Harewood), have a house nearby, where Tre plans to stay while working on the piece. But he finds himself in the middle of not one but two sticky situations. Chip, whose father owns "True Flow," pressures Tre to help him conceal his current infidelity with the vulgar Ladara (Marcia Wright) from Sky. And G, who dated Sky when they were both struggling students at F.I.T. but lost her to Chip, threatens to withhold access if Tre doesn't help him reestablish contact with Sky. After a rocky start, G and Sky rekindle their passionate romance, enraging Daizy; their relationship plays out in counterpoint to B. Mo's pursuit of Ladara's down-to-earth sister, Shelly (Sonja Sohn), who wants no part of no-account players, and Craig and Nicole's deteriorating relationship. More experienced directors than Christopher Scott Cherot have been dragged down by multiple subplots, but the movie's troubles are more fundamental. Cherot and cowriter Charles E. Drew Jr. create equivalents for Fitzgerald's characters without bothering to flesh them out, so it's hard to care what trouble they get themselves into. Their sole effort to lend depth to the frantic goings on involves Tre asking various characters whether "hip-hop has heart." What he seems to want to know (for a journalist he's maddeningly careless with words) is whether mainstream success has transformed a vibrant form of expression rooted in economic and cultural marginalization into a deracinated corporate product. Probably needless to say, no one has an answer. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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