The Great Gatsby - Review




Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan

I had expected this film to either be mind blowing or awful. After watching it, I feel somewhat underwhelmed as The Great Gatsby is neither impressive nor disappointing; it's somewhere inbetween. Baz Luhrmann's vision brings Gatsby alive for the 6th time and has certainly stamped his creative visualisations all over it. However the razzmatazz feels like it's getting in the way of the story, even though said razzmatazz is the most enjoyable bit.

It's hard to review a film that's based on a book (especially one as highly regarded as this) because film should be reviewed in its own right, it seems wrong to judge a film by unfavourable comparisons to a book. With that said, the plot of The Great Gatsby is almost incidental to the success, and the same with the film. People love the twenties era, the music, decadence, clothes. The film is beautiful, fun to look at and I wanted to be there but it largely ignores the subtleties of the book (maybe because the themes can't be translated well onto film...) The Great Gatsby as a book embodies the Jazz Age of the twenties in such as way that makes it one of 'the great American novels' and that's why people only started to really love the book when the twenties had passed; because it is a great impression retrospectively of a lost Age. In this sense, the film stands up very well in comparison to the book.

The film is remarkably decadent and fun to watch. The cars, costumes and parties zing off the screen with a freshness and excitement that is reminiscent of the originality and newness of the twenties. The  hip-hop soundtrack was to us what Jazz was to them, modern and innovative. Jay-Z does work well with the film, it is non jarring and adds to the over all appreciation. 

It is an interesting method of narrative to place Nick in an asylum as a recovering alcoholic. It echoes Holden Caulfield's position in The Catcher In The Rye; however in the film version of The Great Gatsby, it doesn't work as well as it does in J.D Salinger's magnus opus. It seems that Tobey Maguire was either miscast of misdirected possessing too much of a childlike demeanour, as there is nothing wrong with him as an actor. Also, the prose that appeared as if written on the camera was heavy handed and gimmicky and almost detracted from the themes that were trying to  be conveyed. The main ideas of the book however were translated well. The Great Gatsby isn't a tragic love story, it speaks of the elusive American Dream, aspirations and illusions of youth and brutal social politics.

Carey Mulligan is notable as Daisy Buchanan - boring yet intriguing, hollow and ethereal; it is easy to see why Gatsby fell for her but equally easy to see her always being a weak and vacuous woman. Her husband, Tom Buchanan is played remarkably well by Joel Edgerton. One of the few scenes that is standout is the heated exchange between Tom and Gatsby in the Manhattan hotel room. It showed that when the actors were allowed space to breath, unencumbered by confetti cannons, they could truly enact the tension and apprehension as contained in the book. Ultimately, Leonardo Dicaprio was made to play Gatsby. This has been his most impressive portrayal for a very long time and it was easy to find yourself lost in the character and believing him to be someone real and not just Dicaprio putting on an act. The direction of the core actors is Lurhmann's greatest achievement. 

Rating 6.5

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