The Great Gatsby Dazzles
Gatsby Throws the Best Parties
There are some novels that have been deemed unable to be filmmed. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatbsy” has never quite reached that distinction, but it has been incredibly difficult for anyone to really capture the essence of Fitzgerald’s great story.
Director Baz Luhrmann steps up to the plate next to take a swing at tackling the novel. In many respects, Luhrmann is the perfect director to take on Gatsby. He has the exuberance and excessiveness to really capture what Gatsby was all about. The trick about this story is that you can interpret Gatsby many different ways when reading it. So, trying to direct a film in a certain path can be quite tricky. Lurhmann is known for the spectacle that is his work and The Great Gatsby does not disappoint.
If you have read the novel, and who hasn’t by this point, you know the story here. We are told of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) through the eyes of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). Nick is unfolding this story before us as our narrator and delivers in shocking detail the accounts of the summer he moved next door to Gatsby. Soon, he discovers Gatsby isn’t the man the rumors make him out to be. He is a troubled man who is hopelessly in love with Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who also happens to be Nick’s cousin. The one issue is that she is married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a rich and successful businessman.
As Nick learns of Tom’s unfaithful ways, he seems drawn to helping Gatsby rekindle the romance he once had with Daisy. The film feature many brilliant scenes, but none better than when Nick invites Daisy over for tea and she sees Gatbsy for the first time in five years. The scene is full of lush colors and excitement, yet a subtle dose of humanity is injected within that moment. Like much of the film, it is over the top but it maintains the heart of what Gatsby is all about. He is a man with nothing pretending to have everything.
The Stars Deliver
The strength of the film lies within the performances. DiCaprio reteams with Baz Luhrmann after the unique retelling of Romeo and Juliet. DiCaprio once again dazzles on screen and captures the vulnerability of Gatsby. He is perfect for the childish innocence that resides within this man. Carey Mulligan adds depth to Daisy, a character often seen as empty and soulless. Tobey Maguire gives a good enough performance to stack up to the others. He drifts along beside these too good to be real characters and offers a perspective of the audience. As you watch Nick mingle at these lavish parties you realize that he acts as anyone would if suddenly thrust into this situation.
Joel Edgerton is at the top of his game as Tom. You never once feel like you support what he is doing or how he is doing it, but you don’t even turn on him either. He is a man of low morals, yet he conducts himself as one full of them. Isla Fisher takes on the role of Myrtle, Tom’s mistress and quite a vital player as the film unfolds. She has a subtle beauty about her that flashes glimpse of her being stuck in a position she doesn’t belong and is longing to break out.
The breakthrough performance however belongs to Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker. She has a stunning elegance and grace that captivates the screen. She delivers a great turn, which steals every scene she is in. You don’t want to take your eyes off of her. She has a very bright future ahead of her and you can see she is just scratching the surface of what she is capable of.
The Final Word
The art direction and set design are trademarks of Baz Luhrmann films. The Great Gatsby is no different. You are drawn into the world and never want to leave. Everything has a dream-like feel to it. You experience extravagant lifestyle that couldn’t possibly be real. The parties at Gatsby’s are always high points of the novel and to see them brought to life in such a gorgeous way makes you long to get out of your seat and dance.
The script itself suffers from being over full and leaving little room to breath. For a film over two hours long, it’s shocking how little we get to actually invest in the moment. It causes the actors to never feel confortable in a moment as we rush to the next one. This can be its own analogy on the roaring 20s, but it doesn’t help the film. The frantic editing also gives you little time to catch your breath. As a viewer, prepare for a ride that won’t let up until it’s over.
It also feels like the film can beat its symbolism to death. The green light will be brought up enough times that you’ll wish a strong wide would blow it over. It’s a nice notion the filmmakers were trying to relate, but it was just brought on way too strong.
Lastly, the 3D did add to the film. With a movie being this vibrant, the 3D didn’t exactly dull the colors. The movie has several moments where the 3D really draws you in and was worth the extra few dollars. In a world where 3D is tacked on to nearly every film; this is one where it feels natural.
The Great Gatsby is an enjoyable enough film where you can get a break from summer tent pole blockbusters. It’s too early to tell if this is the definitive Gatbsy adaptation, but it’s one that will certainly stand out among all the others.