Published on May 24th, 2013 | by Allan Brown8
The Great Gatsby Review
Movie Review: The Great Gatsby 3D (2013)
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.