The Great Gatsby Movie Review
Baz Luhrmann is a visionary artist that definitely has a unique stamp on his work. STRICTLY BALLROOM was light-hearted fun, ROMEO + JULIET was an unexpected breath of fresh air in a played out genre, and MOULIN ROUGE was an underrated crowning achievement that rejuvenated and reinvented not only musicals but film in general. Unfortunately, AUSTRALIA was a bit forgettable. Your opinion of these films will probably tell you a great deal on what you think of one of my most anticipated films of the year, THE GREAT GATSBY.
Based on the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY follows young writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he moves to New York City during the spring of 1922. Carraway finds himself living across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her hard edged cheating husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Nick’s neighbor is a rarely seen, mysterious millionaire by the name of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) who throws extravagant parties and lives a lavish lifestyle. Striking up an unlikely friendship, Nick begins to spend quite some time with Gatsby, still learning very little about the man. But when Gatsby’s secret forbidden love for Daisy is revealed, the man behind the mystery begins to be exposed.
Perhaps I’m out of line, but the actual story of THE GREAT GATSBY, while still a relevant and quite heart-breaking literary masterpiece, is less appealing and secondary to just about every other aspect in the film. The era of loose morals, bootlegging, lively jazz, fancy cars and extraordinary clothing takes precedent. You put just about any story in that setting and you have yourself a pretty decent picture. THE GREAT GATSBY is no exception, highlighted by the fantastic art direction and colorful costumes, both categories of which will surely be nominated come Oscar time.
Equally solid is the acting. Once you get past an awkward narration from Tobey Maguire who at times sounds as if he is impersonating an old man, everyone plays into the grandiose style quite nicely for their respective roles, especially Joel Edgerton and Leonardo DiCaprio. I have been following Edgerton’s career for a few years now and he is consistently a commanding presence on screen. He is no different here, taking on a more villainous role than usual and easily holding his own against the powerhouse that is Leonardo DiCaprio. When Gatsby is nervous for his first meeting with his long lost love, Leo is firing on all cylinders, showing sophistication, warmth, humor and controlled excitement all at once, proving again that he is one of our greatest living actors. Gatsby’s introduction in particular, is one that will leave you forgetting all about that homely Robert Redford in the 1973 version.
Luhrmann delivers a fast-paced, energetic glitzy spin on a classic tale. The 3D is unnecessary, even distracting at times, as the foreground is filled with unfocused objects. Once the film breathes a little so does the 3D. However, that’s also when the excitement starts to falter losing some of the energetic steam the first two acts built up so well. The whole look and sound of THE GREAT GATSBY helps get past the familiarity and emptiness of the story that touches on corruption, love and deceit, bringing the focus back on the extravagant lifestyles. People really knew how to dress back then. The women in their flapper dresses, head garments, and long pearls had it going on, while the men in their bow ties, vests and slicked back hair with fedora were strikingly sophisticated. For these superficial reasons, THE GREAT GATSBY works quite well.
I think it is pertinent to say THE GREAT GATSBY soundtrack is among the best to which I have ever listened. Yes, that is a big statement. Director Baz Luhrmann worked with Executive Producer Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter to produce a sound and score that alone is worth seeing the film. Astonishingly good, the 1920’s era blends perfectly with a modern sound using artists like, Beyonce, Florence & The Machine, Emile Sande, Gotye and Jack White, who specifically is used brilliantly during a key emotional scene. The film comes alive with the music propelling the picture to a higher greatness than the material probably deserves. In fact, I freely admit that I might be giving THE GREAT GATSBY too much credit due mostly to the music and costuming. Nevertheless, it swept me up and now I have a hankering to purchase myself a one-piece male swimsuit and can’t stop using the phrase “Old Sport.”