Baz Luhrmann ups the razzle dazzle in his adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel THE GREAT GATSBY. See our review here old sport!
Let me be clear from the ‘get-go’: I have not read the book, nor have I seen any of the previous film or stage adaptations of THE GREAT GATSBY. In fact, I had not even read the synopsis nor watched the full trailer: I walked into the screening entirely open, free from preconceived ideas and ready for anything.
Whilst this undoubtedly means I fail at critiquing the film on it’s merits as a adaptation of the source material, it does mean I can critique the film for it’s worth as a movie.
A cautionary tale surrounding the illusion of the American dream, THE GREAT GATSBY offers an intriguing myriad of themes as relevant today as they were in the 1920s (when the story is set). The film explores social image, superficiality, truth versus illusion, and the human aspiration to ‘start again’.
Here Luhrmann does what he does best: extravagance, love and revenge. The story, narrated by the young, penniless writer-turned-bonds-salesman Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), tells of the unlikely friendship he develops with the mysterious millionaire next door Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and the discovery of the meaning behind his grandiose existence.
Reportedly going over budget and coming in five months later than it’s original release date, THE GREAT GATSBY visually is worth every penny and every extra day. It’s a colourful, glitzy (and often beautiful) affair that makes even MOULIN ROUGE look desaturated in comparison.
This is one you want to see on a good quality, immersive screen: the breathtaking effects and clever 3D offer a sumptuous visual feast. Yes it’s over the top; but this is representative of the subject matter and absolutely works.
GATSBY admittedly looks similar to Lurhmann’s previous works, but pulls out enough new tricks to be seen a progressive. However, the frequent use of floating text over the imagery is not one of those progressive moments; the text’s attempts at interacting with the visuals are reminiscent of a high school film project and ultimately cheapens the look. Bad move Luhrmann!
The cast is ‘A-Ok’ with DiCaprio pulling off ‘eccentric, alluring and mysterious’ with great ease – he adds hints of vulnerability, obsession (and a touch of crazy) to round off what is a nicely fleshed-out performance. Maguire does well as his usual likeable and reliable underdog, and Aussie Joel Edgerton does us proud as the philandering yet jealous rich boy Tom.
Carey Mulligan is an interesting casting choice as the love interest on which the whole motivation of the story is based. In order for the film to work it needs to be believed that she is captivating enough to spawn an enduring absent love and a recreation of self. Whilst she is undoubtedly cute and has an attractive feminine weakness to her; she does not quite carry the striking presence once would expect.
The soundtrack will divide. Whilst the film realistically captures the period (albeit a somewhat exaggerated interpretation) it is accompanied by a DJ-esque mash up of modern ‘tune-age’ – not unlike what you’d expect to hear at your everyday underground club.
Whilst this helps propel the party aspect of the film into a modern day perspective and assists the audience in understanding (and not underestimating) the ‘hard-core’ nature of 1920s party scene, I found the juxtaposition of audio and visual daring, but jarring. Ultimately, it risks prematurely dating the film as mainstream music styles so rapidly change (boy band pop is a prime example – HUGE in the nineties, vomit-worthy in the naughties).
All said and done, having no knowledge of what I was letting myself in for (aside from a familiarity with Luhrmann’s stylistic preferences) I found GATBSY to be an intriguing cinematic experience, with the underlying simplicity of the story portrayed via misleading grandeur highly interesting.
The film is overlong, and does not quite follow your usual story arc thus resulting perhaps in a feeling of dissatisfaction for some, yet I left the theatre feeling most entertained and far from short-changed.
Whilst it won’t knock MOULIN ROUGE off my top spot for favourite Luhrmann film, I found THE GREAT GATSBY to be a visually and thematically rich film worthy of a look.
I rate it 7 stars.