The Great Gatsby Blu-ray Review
When Baz Luhrmann, noted filmmaker for both his modern re-imagining of ROMEO + JULIET (1996) and for the original but highly pop-music-infused MOULIN ROUGE (2001), announced his next film would be THE GREAT GATSBY featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, the world took notice. This movie was going to remain more in line with the source material than his previous works, but like his other movies Luhrmann announced a special emphasis on music – this time his partnership with Hip Hop mogul Jay-Z. That piece of news, specifically, gave me great pause. Not because I don’t like Jay-Z or hip hop in particular; rather I was concerned about how true to the book and time period he could be if the movie featured this modernization. Thankfully a few minutes into the film this fear dissolved and I actually came around to enjoy the music much more than I thought I would, not to mention the performances (which are, if possible, even more fantastic). Luhrmann has hit another one out of the park.
THE GREAT GATSBY is a mostly faithful, incredibly stylized retooling of the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Our main character, Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire with a gusto he hasn’t had since THE CIDER HOUSE RULES), has just returned from the war and is living in a kind of oblivion – he is restless and can’t seem to find his place in the world. Picking up and moving outside of New York seems a good idea, so he takes a guest house on a reclusive millionaires estate and connects with local family, his cousin Daisy Buchanon (the timeless beauty Carey Mulligan) and her husband, Nick’s college roommate, Tom Buchanon (a wonderfully ’20s version from Joel Edgerton). Soon Nick is involved in a tangled web of seduction and betrayal, worthly of the era in which the film takes place. Finally enters the title character, Jay Gatsby, played on the edge of a knife by an aging (like wine) Leonardo DiCaprio, and the tale becomes even more tangled. You see, Gatsby has a dark secret that may unravel Nick’s entire world.
THE GREAT GATSBY excels in it’s chaotic simplicity, a style presented previously by Luhrmann in his aforementioned films (see above), but refined and retooled perfectly for this tale of the “Roaring Twenties” we’ve all read about in history classes. Carraway wants desperately to belong and quickly succumbs to peer pressure. Even as he becomes more confident in himself, we still see Carraway (through Maguire’s masterful performance) struggling with the morality he so desperately wants to embody, betraying even his most beloved cousin as he hopes to protect her from the truth of her husband’s infidelities. Mulligan is a revelation as Daisy. Perhaps it’s her look. Perhaps it’s her speech. Or maybe it’s just every little thing about her character that makes me feel exactly the way Fitzgerald intended. The other two leads are equally powerful and are presented as two sides of the same coin, a connection I suppose I should have made when reading the book but one that never really hit home until this viewing. DiCaprio as Gatsby is the embodiment of the neuvo-riche so despised by Edgerton’s ‘old-money’ Buchanan, a role I hope earns Edgerton several nominations come awards season.
I wrote above I was very concerned about the musical choices for the film. Stylistically speaking, I was dead wrong and will learn to trust Luhrmann more in the future. The music is actually perfectly placed within the film; instead of making us remember that we’re in the 21st Century, we are reminded through our own current excess how it so closely mirror those that have come before. The music enhances the story without detracting from the timeline and it gives us every reason to fall deeper and deeper into the timeless plot dreamt up so many years ago by Fitzgerald. The look of the film continues this trend, combining very ‘period’ looking sets with modern grandeur and Luhrmann’s trademark narrative.
What is amazing about THE GREAT GATSBY is simple – Baz Luhrmann took a timeless classic of literature and a prior film that is considered by many a classic of cinema history and upped the ante while creating another instantly timeless film. Just a few scenes into THE GREAT GATSBY I realized I was watching one of the best films I’ve seen all year, and each scene and performance served only to further enhance its place… now, will it be remembered as such in the annals of history? I doubt it. Hollywood, critics, and audiences alike tend to agree on highly stylized concept pieces – they may like them, but they are rarely if ever ‘great’ films. This one deserves it’s place and is a welcome addition to my film collection.
THE GREAT GATSBY BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) The stylized video is presented perfectly with rich colors contrasting some of the darkness in the film. Luhrmann has previously succeeded in revitalizing through imagery and he continues his streak with THE GREAT GATSBY.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is nearly flawless, with beautiful highs and lows that fully immerse you in THE GREAT GATSBY
The Greatness of Gatsby (09:14) Luhrmann brings us along on his decision making process, the production design and planning, and finally making THE GREAT GATSBY. This features some great interview and production footage with interesting interviews with the cast and production team. The actor’s workshop Luhrmann did with his leads looks really incredible.
“Within and Without” with Tobey Maguire (08:41) Maguire shot behind the scenes footage while on set (something Luhrmann encourages) and a lot of the footage is put together here and it’s a fun feature on THE GREAT GATSBY.
The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby (12:17) This special feature focuses on the presentation of the music in THE GREAT GATSBY and how they blended both jazz and modern hip hop music. Interview footage with Jay-Z, key members of the cast and the crew rounds out this presentation of incredible music.
The Jazz Age (15:43) The name of this feature is a term coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This one focuses on him and his life in New York using archival footage and interviews with the production team providing some interesting context for THE GREAT GATSBY.
Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the ‘20s (16:22) Another in-depth feature, this one focuses on the look of the costumes, clothes, etc., presented in THE GREAT GATSBY.
Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry (06:55) Luhrmann connects his style with Fitzgerald’s original narrative of THE GREAT GATSBY and this one goes into the addition of psychoanalysis.
Gatsby Revealed This is a set of 5 separate in-depth looks at specific scenes of import from THE GREAT GATSBY. If you enjoy the film I highly recommend these features. Included here: Gatsby’s Party (07:12), Disconcerting Ride (04:53), Daisy and Gatsby Meet (07:49), The Plaza (04:26), Pool Scene (05:47)
Deleted Scenes (14:24) 3 scenes (including an alternate ending) are introduced by Luhrmann. He discusses why scenes must be cut and how he made those decisions for THE GREAT GATSBY. I understand why they were removed but still gives some nice moments. Included scenes are: Nick and Jordan, Her Voice was Full of Money, and Alternate Ending.
1926 Trailer – THE GREAT GATSBY (01:25) A really interesting trailer is presented for THE GREAT GATSBY from the silent movie era.
THE GREAT GATSBY on Blu-ray also features a DVD copy of the film and an Ultraviolet digital copy (not for iTunes).