"G," by Christopher Scott Cherot, is being billed as a modern-day hip-hop version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby." But for anyone to enjoy this starchy, contrived exercise in vanity and product placement, it's best not to have read the book.
In fact, it's best not to have read any book.
Cherot showed promise in 1997 with his debut film, "Hav Plenty," in which he set an appealing post-collegiate love story amid the black bourgeoisie of suburban Washington. He's returning to that same community now, with the added fillip of exploring tensions between the established African American upper class and the nouveau riche, here represented by rap stars and their Bentleys-and-blunts lifestyle. And that would be a fascinating exercise -- both artistic and anthropological -- if one word of "G" were authentic, artful or even borderline believable.
At the center of the story is a man named Summer G (the potentially wonderful Richard T. Jones), a Diddy-like hip-hop producer who has amassed a fortune and who has recently moved into a seaside mansion, giving new meaning to the term "Summer in the Hamptons." True to Fitzgerald's original story, G, as he's called, has moved there to win the affection of a social climber who is also the love of his life, a woman named Sky Hightower (Chenoa Maxwell), wife of snobby scion Chip (Blair Underwood) and cousin of Tre (Andre Royo), who functions as the movie's Nick Carraway.
Things go wrong, really wrong, meaning not that illusions are shattered or hearts are broken or people are killed -- although they are, they are, and they are -- but that the plot is a shambles, the acting is atrocious and the production values are more concerned with getting Heineken and Ralph Lauren labels in the shot than anything like visual elegance. (In a case of art imitating life imitating art imitating life, "G" was produced and co-stars Andrew Lauren, son of the Gatsbyesque Ralph, ne Ralph Lipschitz.) Cherot takes plenty of liberties with Gatsby; fans of the book and the 1974 movie will need some time to adjust to a character named Daisy who's more Lil' Kim than Mia Farrow, not to mention one of the most painfully dumb climaxes of the year, in which the cavalry arrives in the form of the East Hampton Neighborhood Association. It goes without saying that "The Great Gatsby's" fine metaphorical flourishes have been rubbished -- gone is the billboard with the God-like pair of eyes, the taunting green light at the end of an unattainable dock and Daisy's haunting lament: "That's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."
Instead, "G" is simply a series of creakily constructed billboards that leave only nagging questions about who greenlighted this pretty foolish little movie.
G (100 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for brief violence, some sexuality and profanity.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel for the hip-hop age that falls short on all fronts.