Posted by: greercn | May 20, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Crash! Flash! Bang! Baz Luhrmann is back. Those seeking subtlety or nuance should look elsewhere.

Baz is all about big visual wow moments, full of anachronism and loud noise. Having inhaled music halls and epics at an early age, he thinks “understatement” is a bad, bad word.

So much of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is a cautionary tale, warning about the excesses of the American Dream and urging the reader to question emotions.

This movie version of Gatsby works because of Luhrmann’s vision as well as due to his clever casting of Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. If you find Leo’s boy/man simper a tad annoying in a 38-year-old, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well it works for his character here.

Leo owns this role and convinces you, even at the most difficult moments. The quality of boyish optimism shines through his acting.

Carey Mulligan seems too young for Daisy Buchanan, but this deep young actress channels the right shallow vibe in the key scenes.

Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway character – the poor young writer who is cousin to Daisy and neighbour to Gatsby – keeps the emotional balance well-defined. Why Nick’s summer romance has been lost in Baz World is inexplicable, unless it’s to keep the focus on Daisy and Gatsby.

Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher and Amitabh Bachchan stand out amoung the rest of the cast

Gatsby is all about big parties, enormous emotions and massive houses. As always with Baz, the costumes and sets are lavish and perfect.

Curiously, this was filmed in Australia. Long Island and New York in 1922 feel very realistically drawn, despite this fact.

The entertainers, fireworks, cars and locations all are just beautiful. Music emphasises key scenes, despite being modern rather than in period.

Little details in glassware and teapots all rivet the viewer’s attention.

The 3D did little for me, other than make the movie look physically dark. A few times, I flipped the glasses off and lost only a bit of background detail. One exception was some astonishing 3D snow, which drifted through the screen in an appealing way.

Stratford East Picturehouse was packed and the audience stayed quiet and attentive throughout. It doesn’t sag in the middle, even though it’s 142 minutes long.

Go see it expecting Baz rather than F. Scott. Then, you’ll be pleased by how many of Fitzgerald’s ideas are here. Fitzgerald died feeling the novel was a failure, since it didn’t get popular until after World War 2.

Luhrmann’s film is Fitzgerald-lite, but much impresses and it’s all very enjoyable.

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Responses

  1. Good review Greer. No doubt about it that this movie is sure as hell pretty to gaze at, but the story doesn’t have much emotion or feeling whatsoever. It’s just there so Luhrmann can show us how cool everything he made looks.

  2. I didn’t like the book when I had to read it in school. But what stays with me is the shallowness of some of the main characters, even though they have pretty lives. For me, Luhrmann captures that essential emptiness better than previous directors of Gatsby movies did. There is a place in my life for the purely ornamental with a little light philosophy. Thanks for the comment!


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