The Great Gatsby
The okay Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaption to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic is certainly young and beautiful, but doesthat mean we will still love it? I know you will, I know you will.
The Great Gatsby novel is about a lot of things. Money, desire, work, play, the Roaring 20s, the American dream, and too much more. Unfortunately for its latest film adaption, directed by Baz Luhrmann, it doesn’t tackle overindulgence.
Nick Carroway (Toby Maguire), ambitious and happily inexperienced, moves from the Midwest to New York one summer wet his ears as a bond salesman. He also lives close to his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carrey Mulligan) and her husband, his old Yale buddy Tom (Joel Edgerton). His new neighbor, the shadowy Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), never introduces himself, but invites Nick via hand-delivered envelope (unheard of from Gatsby!) to one of his locally famous weekend shindigs, where his mansion becomes a palace of confetti and fireworks (and apparently dubstep music, though that doesn’t make any sense chronologically). Gatsby only wants one thing in the world, and he needs Nick’s help to get it.
The novel became an American classic partly due to Fitzgerald’s weaving together of a myriad of themes and motifs, all related to his vision of a flashy, hedonistic 1920s-based America. The novel’s open-ended themes let the reader construct their own interpretations. The film perhaps captures the source material’s tone, but every shot, scene, costume choice, and line of dialogue is meticulously calculated to convey the right amount of whatever Luhrmann felt would evoke an audience reaction at the moment. The film is too overthought and self-indulgent to feel like a direct adaption of the book; instead, it feels like a stuffy (albeit glitzy and glamorous) critical analysis submitted to a professor for a grade.
As a film and nothing else, it’s far from perfect, but easily confident and creative. Over-indulgence is an issue – the film’s fantastic production makes it look much better than it needs to. The visuals are imaginative and relentless and gawk-able, if at times blatantly overcrowded. The additional 3D price is skippable, though interesting to wonder why anyone thought The Great Gatsby needed to be shown in 3D for any other reason besides more expensive tickets.
The cast? DiCaprio is one of the actors best suited to play Gatsby we could have hoped for. Maguire and Mulligan were both born in the wrong era; they belong in the 20s, where they could gasp and rapturously blink their way through a conversation and it would have worked, just like in the movie. The highly qualified trio did not mix well with the script, however – they most likely were shocked and a little confused from the confetti or billowing curtains present in every scene, or Luhrmann’s vicegrip control. Mulligan never realized she wasn’t playing a drugged princess in an animated Disney film, and Maguire’s voiceover narrations were reminiscent of a bingo announcer at an elderly home. Meanwhile, Leo won’t get nominated for an Oscar. The parts were well acted individually, but lacked cohesive chemistry.
Something the film did get right? Its soundtrack stays true to Fitzgerald’s legendary vision of a Jay-Z soundtrack. The disc offers a few original old-fashioned sounding tunes mixed surprisingly well with mushy EDM beats (Fergie’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” is perhaps the highlight) as well as a few darkened, slowed down covers (Emeli Sande turning Beyonce’s militant anthem Crazy In Love into a subtle love letter stands out). #LoganKrumMusicReviews
It’s hard categorizing the film as either successful or a failure. It’s neither. It’s a specific and calculated adaption of a film that should not have been either of those things. See it without expectations.