To start things off, we will be taking a look at The Great Gatsby, recently released on DVD and originally in theaters in May of 2013. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo and Juliet), it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire. It is rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and drinking, violent images, and brief language.
Set in 1922, the story follows Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a World War I war veteran from the Midwest, as he travels to New York, taking a job as a bonds salesman. Carraway also serves as the narrator of the story. Soon after he arrives, he visits his cousin, the beautiful Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who is married to his former classmate at Yale, Tom (Joel Edgerton). Nick has rented a small house on Long Island, next to the grand mansion owned by the illustrious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is known solely for his large, exciting parties that are thrown week after week.
Shortly after, Nick meets and befriends Gatsby. Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for five years, and desires to meet her once again, asking Nick to invite her to tea. The two slowly rekindle their love, and Gatsby attempts to steal her away from Tom.
7.0 out of 10
On the surface, this film is enjoyable, and interesting. But when you dig deeper, it is more glamour and style and less F. Scott Fitzgerald and actual content, something that truly disappointed me in the end (even if i have not read the book).
DiCaprio is the best thing about this film. He has the charm, the looks, and most importantly, the hope to play Jay Gatsby. Obsessed with Daisy, Gatsby refuses to lose hope, insisting she must leave Tom. And what helps is his chemistry with his cast mates, especially Carey Mulligan. Their relationship was intimate and loving, and without this bond, the film would have fallen apart. The rest of cast does a very solid job as well, with surprisingly strong performances from Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher, and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki (Jordan Baker) has a solid performance as well. We will get into Tobey Maguire’s performance a little bit later.
The film is shot using a 3-D camera, thus bringing out the bright colors and sights. The use of computer graphics is something that this film hasn’t been credited for in its first few months of release. Not many people realize how much of this film really is CGI. The city, Gatsby’s mansion; it’s pretty remarkable. This, along with the extravagant sets and costumes provide beautiful scenery. Luhrmann also utilizes colors very well, making the first half very bright and lively, in comparison to the darker second half, which is sadder and more dismal in tone.
The only problem is, the film concentrates too much on making it look good instead of actually It is not the appropriate music for this film. I like the idea of translating the era of jazzy music to modern day hip hop, but it stills concerns me to hear ‘Empire State of Mind’ while Gatsby and Nick are driving through the city. Now, being completely honest, it works. They somehow make it work. But this film is not a modern-day retelling. It is not Romeo + Juliet. So the choice to have modern music in a non-modern film is a bit odd. It doesn’t allow the viewer to actually get a feel of the time period when Jay-Z and Beyonce are blaring in the background. Again, this is just an opinion.
Tobey Maguire does a fine job as Nick Carraway. He is smart and sharp, playing the character with the right amount of innocence. But him as a narrator? Not so great. His designated narration scenes were boring and unconvincing. I don’t blame this on him, though. The storytelling was questionable in general. Having Nick write a book as a recovering alcoholic was unnecessary. Nick commonly recited passages from the novel and then those passages were written out while he was speaking. To me, this was just annoying. It was messy and unappealing and did nothing to advance the story. It constantly interrupted the flow of the film and gave us unwanted scenes with Maguire talking to some therapist. Not to say he does a bad job, it’s just unneeded and stupid. It’s unfortunate that is was a weak point, especially since it’s such a huge part of a movie. The storytelling really lets this film down.
Overall, this film was solid. It was nothing memorable, but it’s worth a watch if you have nothing else to do. The movie is far from perfect, but after multiple sub-par attempts at creating a movie that meets the expectations Fitzgerald set, this one is definitely at the top of the ladder.
6.5 out of 10
Like the title character, Gastby seemingly has a lot going for it. However, both are ultimately brought down by the glitzy, superfluous excess of the world that surrounds them.
But, at the risk of sounding undecided, the things that are good about this movie are very good. It’s simply that, as mentioned previously, those things do not delve into the deepness that’s to be expected. Besides that, the few great emotional moments, the ones that strive to go beyond the visuals that are seemingly expected to carry the weight of the entire movie, are too few and far between. But, we’ll get to that later.
I am going to try not to touch the story so much with this adaption simply because everyone has their takes on the Gilded Age and Fitzgerald’s commentary on it. I’m focusing on the style over substance in this case because I really think that’s what the director is exclusively about: visuals that dazzle and distract. And when Empire State of Mind blasted over the glitzy world of the roaring twenties’ Long Island, I couldn’t help but be taken out of the period it presented to me (Or tried to, at least).
That’s where, to me, the main problem lies and I’m certainly going to keep harping on it. I’d much rather be taken away by cinematography, music and scenery that really captures an era (See films like Glory, Catch Me If You Can or, heck, Forrest Gump) rather than a film that constantly takes breaks from the time to try and draw connections between said age and today.
Would F. Scott Fitzgerald himself be pleased with it? I guess I am not quite the one to say. However, if the lesson of the source material is that materialism cannot fill the emotional gaps in one’s life, is it not blasphemous to the book that the film seems more focused on the parties and fashion then the thought and lost-ness of a generation?
As far as acting, I really did enjoy every performance put out. But DiCaprio will forever be listed as a tragedy as long as he goes without an Oscar simply because he tragically suffers from what I like to call the Morgan Freeman-effect. When an actor is in the game long enough and has such established characteristics, the MF-effect is that nagging part of your brain that points directly at Leo, no matter how much he’s giving to the role, and says: “THAT’S &@$&ing LEONARDO DICAPRIO!” . He’s suffered from it a lot (See his puddy-covered face in J. Edgar) but I know he’s smart enough to escape it. The rest of the supporting does a nice job of sucking you far enough in to the story at times when the visuals detract you.
So, overall? I wasn’t particularly kind to the movie when I first etched it but now it’s been promoted to a hard “Meh.” but I guess I’d recommend seeing it since its polarizing nature continues to divide everyone who’s viewed it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%