Review leonardo-dicaprio-the-great-gatsby-J-Gatsby

Published on May 24th, 2013 | by Allan Brown

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The Great Gatsby Review

 

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby 3D (2013)the-great-gatsby-film-poster. movie review world

Rating: (12A)

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Writers: Baz Luhrmann (screenplay), Craig Pearce (screenplay)

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan

Plot: When aspiring author Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) becomes captivated by the extravagant lifestyle of his new neighbour, playboy millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his circle of high society friends, his experiences inspire him to write his own story of; power, greed, betrayal, hypocrisy, sacrifice and social hierarchy wrapped in the great American dream.

 

Movie Review World

Theatrical and melodramatic are two words that best describe director Baz Luhrmann’s pictures. From his post-modern stylistic take on “Romeo and Juliet” to his dazzling visual spectacle “Moulin Rouge”, it can be said that subtlety has never been a word in filmmakers vocabulary. This time the director boldly takes on a story widely regarded as one of the greatest works of American literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby.

tobey-maguire as nick-carraway in the great gatsby. movie review worldThe Great Gatsby Movie opens to a disenchanted Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who is being treated by a doctor for alcoholism. Unable to articulate his thoughts on a man named Gatsby, the doctors gently persuades him to put pen to paper.

We then flash back to the spring of 1922 New York, where Carraway (Tobey Maguire), then a bonds salesman and aspiring writer, falls under the spell and allure of his neighbour, the enigmatic yet elusive Jay Gatsby. As Carraway grows increasingly fascinated by the elaborate parties held at his new neighbours estate, his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) living in the mansion across the bay, struggles in her loveless marriage to the aristocrat Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).

Inspired by what he has seen at Gatsby’s extravagant parties, including the cynicism and hypocrisy of the wealthy elite, Carraway begins to write as it becomes increasingly clear that his cousin and the reclusive millionaire share a romantic past that remains unresolved.

Baz Luhrmann’s sensational and unflinching trademarks are all here and present, encompassing a flamboyant and over-the-top visual spectacle that works surprisingly well for a film like The Great Gatsby and all in eye popping 3D. The visuals manages to walk hand in hand with the main themes of the story whilst capturing the glamour, excess and the self-indulgent attitudes of the people with great accuracy.
Leonardo-DiCaprio and Carey-Mulligan stare into each others eyes in the great gatsby. movie review world

Many people have griped at Luhrmann’s adaptation, declaring the characters portrayed are nothing more than hollow, one dimensional stereotypes who offer no depth or realism. While I feel this is in-part true, it is perhaps the whole point. The characters in the story are simply played as their thematic counterparts. To delve any deeper into their psyche would detract from the stories main idea; hypocrisy, power, greed and social hierarchy. However I did feel that the drawback of playing the characters as purely thematic vessels for the story meant there was an emotional void and intimacy that was perhaps essential in allowing the audience to fully buy into the story and its characters.

Carraway’s character (Tobey Maguire) has also been criticised for being nothing more than a wall flower, floating from scene to scene offering nothing more than the occasional voiceover. Again, I see this as the point; he is the moral compass of the story, an outsider looking in, an observer, essentially he is us, the viewer.

The bold and risky contemporary Soundtrack produced by none other than Mr Roc-A-Fella himself Jay Z, who uniquely blends 1920 jazz with modern day hip hop (Kanye West) soul (Lana Del Rey, Emeli Sande), pop (will-i-am) and indie music (The XX) to great effect and it is so expertly done that it not only complements the visuals but often provides the weighted punch some scenes are otherwise lacking.


the-great-gatsby-party-scene. movie review worldLeonardo DiCaprio
gives a stunning performance, commanding the screen whilst conveying the magnetism, mystery, and charm of the besotted yet vulnerable Jay Gatsby.

Carey Mulligan is enchanting in her portrayal as Daisy. She maintains her position as the object of desire flawlessly until her character arc where she too becomes a victim, even though it is difficult to relinquish any sympathy for her.

Maguire does fine at portraying the innocence and naivety essential for the role of Carraway. However, I did at times find Maguire awkward on screen and a little out of depth, possibly even miscast.

The Great Gatsby Review Allan Brown

Verdict

Summary: Luhrmann has managed to bring this great American fable to a new audience with a visual flair, style and technique unmatched. While it can be said it perhaps lacks an emotional connection with its characters, the films dream like quality juggles the themes and symbolism of the book that are as relevant today as they were in 1925, and are likely to stay with you long after the end credits roll. All in all this visual translation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel is beautifully realised and at times verges on the profound.

4

Great


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About the Author

Despite my 9-5 being consumed by the daily duties of an Electrician, Movie Review World serves as a platform for me to share my thoughts, explorations and reflections on one of my biggest passions, film.



8 Responses to The Great Gatsby Review

  1. Stu Mac says:

    My first ever movie review….

    Baz luhrmanns films are always slightly over the top but this one went that step to far. The story is about excess and flamboyancy which the entire production does capture well – the dresses, the music, the cars, the mansions etc. The big scenes are done really well, and the infusion of music and bustling activity captivated me as a viewer however it all felt a bit like I was looking through a kaleidoscope or that I had ADHD. It seems like once the big party scenes were done and Lurhmann was taken out of his element that the story felt a bit disjointed and rushed. The beauty of the Great Gatsby as a literary classic for me is in the fact the writing itself is as stunning as the visual it creates and I think Luhrmann misses that point. He changes parts, dumbs down lines, and at times makes the characters speak almost like bullet points on a page.

    I found myself wanting to care about the characters more but I just couldn’t due to both the bang-bang- bang nature of the production and the casting. Tom felt like almost like a comedy villain, whilst Daisy lacked beauty, depth and an ‘edge’ which made her so irresistible to all in the novel. Leo as Gatsby has an impossible task of playing a hollow and soulless character without being so himself, but still manages to convey his contrasting external suave and internal naively childish flaws. Macguire as Nick does well to show his lighter side but seems cast only because he’ll appeal to more of a Hollywood audience. He isn’t a believable as a loner bond salesman, but my liking of him grew as the film progressed (in contrast to the film itself.) Jordan Baker looks great but adds little, and Myrtle is easily forgotten about.

    The soundtrack itself isn’t too bad, some people will have a problem with the constant mash up between contemporary jazz and the modern hip-hop but I feel it worked quite well in parts. The introduction of Beyonce and Jay-Z added a different dimension of edginess and excitement to the more grandeur scenes, but their mistake was making the latter an executive producer which turned those scenes into the feeling of a music video instead of a movie.

    Why Luhrmann chooses to miss out Nick and Jordan’s romance i can’t understand. But the biggest mistake is skimming through the ending and not making more of Gatsby or Nicks loneliness. The empty funeral and its meaning are barely touched on, like Luhrmann got bored not being able to play around in his usual ‘bigger is better’ way. The film seems to peak at around 30-40 minutes with the introduction of Gatsby, impressive fireworks, and climax of the Rhapsody in Blue mash-up with rap lyrics. From then on Luhrmann tries to captivate the audience with eccentric film making and production to make it seem appealing. I can’t comment on the 3-D aspect but I can imagine the swooping camera shots and gods-eye views are quite impressive. We are shown flashbacks that look ‘Instagrammed’, split screen montages, post war newsreels designed to look modern, modern scenes designed to look old, images and text superimposed over each other and many other flashy techniques. Some of the gimmicks work well but again it’s just too much and adds to the impression it’s one big satirical cabaret performance and not an interpretation of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.
    In high school I studied Romeo and Juliet and then we watched Luhrmanns modern day interpretation in class. It successfully captured my interest as a teenager, as well as ‘dumbing down’ the story enough to help me understand the multifaceted depth to Shakespeare and help with my studies. Like Romeo and Juliet, the Great Gatsby succeeds as a family-friendly modern day approach to an over-zealous yet paradoxically simple love story but fatefully fails as an accurate interpretation of the story itself. The Great Gatsby to me; is a story about layers. Each character has layers, whilst the plot itself has several different levels similar to a dream in Inception (again starring DiCaprio). Unfortunately this modern version lacks any sort of depth, and like a fake diamond necklace worn at one of the protagonists parties, it dazzles on the surface but is somewhat cheap and uninteresting when you look closer. In the modern day quick-buck easy-watching over-the-top Hollywood blockbuster genre (See post 2000 superhero films) it will do well (particularly the soundtrack) however I feel it will leave scholarly fans feeling like they wish they could “repeat the past” and unwatch it.

    • Allan Brown says:

      Hi Stu and thanks for sharing your review, it’s always good to get another viewpoint.

      I too have issues with Baz Luhrmann’s pictures. I almost always find his productions a matter of style over substance and have sadly never really enjoyed any of his previous contributions to film. However, I felt very differently about The Great Gatsby. As a newcomer to the story I had very little knowledge of the premise and this is perhaps why the film resonated with me as much as it did.

      Of course literary purists are always going to cluck when their favourite novel is adapted for film. and why they shouldn’t. There have been but a handful of adaptations that have truly captured the essence of the literary counterparts; The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption.

      As an avid fan of the book did you perhaps already have reservations about the film before viewing? At 2h 24mins I don’t think the movie could have been any longer and yes some of the fat could have been trimmed to allow more flow, exposition and characterisation in the narrative.

      A film is never going to convey the depth of a novel and I by no means found this film perfect, in fact far from it, but the themes and symbolism I caught from the movie have captivated and inspired me enough to go on and read the book and that is surely a good thing.

      Thanks again for your contribution, nice review.

      • Stu Mac says:

        Hey Allan,

        From reading many other critics reviews it does seem that there are two distinct camps – those that fell in love with the book first and thus enjoyed the film less, and those like yourself who are newcomers to the world of J Gatsby. The latter group have generally posted higher ratings as there is no concept of Fitzgerald’s characters subconsciously in the mind, and so the film is easier to view at face value. Personally, I tried as hard as possible to forget both the novel and also the Robert Redford production when viewing this film and whilst I think I managed to achieve this, it is inevitable that comparisons are made.

        A part of me thinks a film should be viewed on nothing more on the question, ‘ How much were you entertained on a scale of 1 to 10’ since that is why we visit the cinema, but when it comes to novel adaptations its far too easy to slip into further analysis and that why I believe that the ‘literary purists’ as you call them, have posted more negative reviews.

        Was the film entertaining? Yes, definitely. The soundtrack especially was ace. Would I watch it again? Of course. So even though I find the novel much more stimulating and enjoyable on more levels than Lurhmann’s 145 minutes, I am still giving it a thumbs (slightly) up and would encourage anyone to go and see it!

        Cheers

        • Allan Brown says:

          Interesting points Stu. I always find that I tend to slip into further analysis when it comes to film, which is of course why I find writing my thoughts in the form of a review so rewarding. I agree with many of your points on Gatsby, however, I feel that some of the depth you found lacking was conveyed in other ways throughout the film.

          Thanks again for your comments Stu, I appreciate them and you have certainly sparked a worthwhile discussion here on the film.

        • Shona Louise Craven says:

          Interesting comments, Stu Mac – I think there’s a fine line between making a film about shallow people and making a shallow film. Have you read any Brett Easton Ellis? The Great Gatsby is quite similar to Glamorama – the writer is at once in thrall to the characters and their world and critical of them, but many readers miss the criticism. I also disagree that Romeo + Juliet was dumbed down. Sure, it didn’t contain every line of the play, but few productions do. It’s still probably in my top 10 films of all time – every scene just works so well. I don’t think TGG is quite up there, but it’s a solid four-starrer for me!

  2. I think you may have enjoyed this a wee bit more than I did. The actual acting in the film was well done. However, I thought the directorial flourishes greatly detracted from the emotional impact of the story. Don’t even get me started on that out of place soundtrack. I wish Baz had gone with a full modern adaptation like R&J.

    First time stopping by as I noticed you had just joined the LAMB. Welcome aboard, when you get a chance swing by our humble film blog and say hi.

    • Allan Brown says:

      I agree that the film lacked an emotional punch but I must say I was in awe of the soundtrack. I thought the blend was exceptional and fitted the visuals and tone of each scene to perfection.

      Yeh, finally a fully fledged LAMB. I’m boldly stepping out into new horizons and all that.

      Thanks for reading guys, I truly appreciate it and I will of course be heading over to your site later today.

      Cheers

  3. Definitely on the same wavelength as my Gatsby review! The most common complaint I came across with Gatsby was mostly about how hollow the characters are, as you mentioned above. But, you’re right, that’s the whole point. Any character complaints or plot complaints need to be redirected toward the book, because Luhrmann follows the book very closely. Great review!

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