Monday, 3 June 2013

The Great Gatsby (Review)


Baz Luhrmann has invited everyone to a party at Gatsby's house! And when Baz turns party planner the result is sure to be dramatic, romantic, energetic and completely drenched in glitter and sequins.

The American Dream
F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby was a perfect choice for a film adaptation by Baz Luhrmann. His decadent, famously fanciful film-making style worked perfectly to bring to life the lavish indulgences of the rich and famous in Roaring Twenties New York. But more importantly The Great Gatsby is also a love story and Baz has had much success with tragic romances such as Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet. The story is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, a wide-eyed Yale graduate who becomes fascinated by the infamous Jay Gatsby after moving in next-door to his mansion on Long Island and attending some of his wild parties. What Nick doesn't realise is that the enigmatic Gatsby's many secrets are all wrapped up in his past involvement with Nick's beautiful playful - and married - cousin Daisy Buchanan.

The King Of Long Island
Tobey Maguire does his best performance since Seabiscuit as the youthful starry-eyed Nick. I found him a bit drippy as Spider-Man (who had the idea to cast him as a super hero?) but his soft-spoken, naive appeal is much better suited to play Nick. But Leonardo DiCaprio was born to play Gatsby given his many layers and the emotional intensity of his story.

Baz Luhrman's style is like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. Because of its dazzling fairytale quality I personally love it. On the other hand I can see why some viewers might find Baz's style a bit garish but I felt it totally fit with the wildly glamourous setting of this movie. Similar to the nightclub scenes in Moulin Rouge, the party scenes in Great Gatsby are utterly amazing. I suggest that you plan a night out after seeing this film because all the sparkling decorations, stylish costumes and wicked music will definitely put you in the mood to go out.

Jay-Z And Jazz
Some people have criticised the use of modern music but I think Jay-Z's arrangements compliment the story well and makes it more accessible to a 21st-century audience. The music was actually a highlight for me. It was like another character, helping you to feel truly swept away in the moment, which is what Gatsby's story is all about. I especially loved Lana Del Ray's haunting love ballad Young And Beautiful which became a theme that recurred throughout the film, and was both weirdly uplifting and yet desperately sad by the end.

Crystal Clear
There are two things about this film that you have to know before you see it. The first is that it looks a lot better in 3-D. I have never been a fan of this cheap gimmicky add-on but in the case of The Great Gatsby I have to say that it is crucial you pay the extra £3 for the full, stunning experience. The second thing you should know is that you will enjoy the film a lot more if you have read the book. I hadn't read the book, so when I first saw the film, I couldn't understand where the story was going or what the characters were getting so worked up about. The second time I saw it, I had a much better understanding of what was going on and so I felt a lot more involved with the characters and the drama. Now I wish I had just read the book in the first place.

Crazy In Love
Although I think Carey Mulligan is a great actress, her portrayal of Daisy seemed a bit inconsistent. Overall she was a rather selfish vacuous character and I wish they had made this more apparent early on in the film. I still would have understood why Gatsby loved her, because I think he was more in love with an ideal, instead of the actual person, who he seemed to know very little about. This adaptation seemed to want to make Daisy more sympathetic, the victim of the love triangle, and she does cry an awful lot, but I was confused about whether she loved Gatsby or was just very immature. I think Baz wanted to make the romance more equal and turn it into a doomed lovers kind of story. But for that to be the case, the ending has no resonance, and just becomes a little confusing because it's like Baz wants you to feel sorry for Daisy, when actually her behaviour is incredibly callous - or careless - as Nick points out in his final narrative.

But Daisy's confusing behaviour aside, this was an incredibly complex story - bringing together  huge themes of love and obsession and class -  and I don't think Baz lost sight of that in all the razzle-dazzle. This wasn't style over substance - it was substance and then style. Particularly on the second viewing I found myself totally drawn into the story and the emotional intensity, but also into that mad party lifestyle that had so intrigued Nick, and seduced Gatsby - because Daisy had become an embodiment of all the things he had strived his whole life to achieve.

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  1. DiCaprio is amazing, as usual, but everything else seems to be falling apart around him here. Good review Joey.

  2. I was impressed with it. Amidst all the glitz, it really brought home the tragic, futile waste of it all. I was glad to have read the book. I didn't like the Robert Redford movie version as much. I think Baz captured that frenetic post war seizing of everything to excess beautifully.