Love, loss and hip-hop in 'Gatsby'-esque 'G'

Chicago Tribune

"Is there that much hip-hop in the Hamptons?" a lily-white woman asks at the beginning of "G," a Lizzie Grubman-era variation on "The Great Gatsby." The answer, of course, is P. Diddy. Or Diddy. Or, as those in the inner-circle call him, Ddy.

Jay-Z loves the Hamptons, a New York magazine story told us in 1999. So do Russell Simmons and Kimora. And Damon Dash. Alas, this ritzy end of Long Island, where once only the whitest of the white summered in exclusivity, is now home to Diddy's White Party, where guests need only dress white, not be white.

This transformation -- the hip-hopification of the Hamptons, if you please -- caught the attention of Andrew Lauren, son of Ralph Lauren and producer of/driving force behind "G." Lauren grew up summering in the Hamptons -- lucky for dad, ne Ralph Lifshitz, Jews got through the pearly gates a while back -- and was fascinated to see his playground diversified. (The American Dream: different colors of rich people!)

So he teamed with playwright Charles E. Drew Jr. and director Christopher Scott Cherot to retell F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic Long Island tale, casting black man Richard T. Jones ("Judging Amy") as Gatsby-esque (emphasis on the -esque) Summer G, a hip-hop mogul whose bling means nothing without his one true love, Sky. Sweethearts and struggling artists in college, Sky and Summer split up when Sky (Chenoa Maxwell) ran off to marry Chip Hightower (Blair Underwood), a successful businessman who promised her the world and actually delivered.

Now, 10 years later, a sullen Summer, a searching Sky and a cheating Chip all find themselves luxuriating in the Hamptons. When Sky's cousin Tre (Andre Royo), an earnest music writer for True Flow magazine, drives up from the city to interview Summer, oh boy -- the triangle heats up.

Cherot shot "G" on a tight schedule, but instead of this age-old indie predicament generating a scrappy passion, the film just looks cheap. The editing, the music, the performances are all pretty low quality, especially given the attempted grandeur (and that source material). "G" might have worked as a budget B-flick, but the filmmakers are going for something more operatic here with their mix of love and loss, rap and race.

They miss. By a lot. (Although Chip's Ralph Lauren Purple Label wardrobe is quite dapper.)

But hip-hop culture is as American as apple pie, WASPs and materialism, and the draw of the Hamptons is pretty straightforward, no matter your color.

As rap bigwig Damon Dash explained in the 1999 New York magazine piece, "Do I want to see someone get shot ... or do I want to get on a private helicopter and fly to the Hamptons? ... It's not a tough question."



MPAA rating: R for language, some sexuality and brief violence

An Andrew Lauren Productions release. Director Christopher Scott Cherot. Screenplay Cherot, Charles E. Drew Jr., story by Lauren and Drew.

Producers Lauren, Judd Landon. Cinematography Horacio Marquinez. Editor Rob Reitano. Production designer Anne Stuhler. Music Bill Conti.

Running time: One hour, 37 minutes.

In selected theaters.

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