The Great Gatsby Review
The Great Gatsby, the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald is brought to life through the mind of Baz Luhrmann and what a dream-like world it is.
The Great Gatsby is by far Luhrmann’s best mainstream effort to date. He creates spectacle but allows the story to propel itself. This is unlike the set pieces of his Red Curtain Trilogy. Furthermore he reigns in the majority of his cast from chewing up the screen, other than the great Gatsby himself. A lesson he surely learnt after the tourism ad that was Australia.
The story of The Great Gatsby follows a naïve want to be stock broker moving to New York and the relationship he forms with his neighbour. This relationship is complicated when the neighbour, an enigma known as Gatsby, tries to recapture his lost love. It’s a classic tale of lost love trying to be found again, set in the 1920’s.
The film plays up the hedonistic dalliances of the times and creates the most visually intriguing world I’ve seen in quite some time.
Tobey Maguire is an actor that portrays naivety so well that is all he ever does, that baby face of his gives genuine feeling to his portrayal of Carraway. A portrayal that while it suits the character becomes tiresome as the curtain that is Gatsby starts to get pulled away. But in all truth Carraway in this film is just a device to deconstruct the self-made man J. Gatsby (Leonardo Decaprio)
Dicaprio’s Gatsby is pitch perfect as he chews up the screen and oozes cool, giving a solid peg for the other players to orbit around. And orbit they do, Joel Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan appearances are steep, careening spurts of emotional predictableness. Even Carrie Mulligan‘s Daisy Buchanan is tethered to Gatsby and only appears to serve his motives.
Likewise Isla Fischer’s Myrtle Wilson is a hot meteor that doesn’t get the time on screen her or her character deserve and crashes to earth undeservedly. Elizabeth Debicki’s Jordan Baker too is beautiful comet that darts in and out of scenes, connecting Carroway to Gatsby and sadly not much more, thus at times disjointing the tone of scenes and confusing the intention of some characters.
The disjointed feel of the film begins with the use of modern music over the period set pieces; this works to the film’s strengths and helps to engross the audience in this world. The visuals then continue in this way with every scene, every background being overly tempered with camera trickery or digital grading and CGI
This becomes growingly frustrating as The Great Gatsby unfolds, especially when editing and additional dialogue recording (ADR) is concerned. For instance, several times Edgerton speaks but his jaw and face clearly don’t move. While this seems deliberate, and does work in accentuating the bombastic nature of the time, it falters more than it succeeds and feels more like poor editing and a desperate attempt to fill gaps missed during principal photography ( the film had a tumultuous shooting and was marred by delays and reshoots).
In fact a lot of The Great Gatsby feels unpolished and much rawer than you’d expect from Luhrmann once you get past the initial sparkle. Perhaps it would be more fitting to rename this film “The Great Anachronistic Gatsby and the fragmented world he imagined”, it is wordy but so is this film.
Though for all of it’s missteps The Great Gatsby is still an enjoyable romp. This film is the best example, I can think of, of how hard it is to make a bad film when based on a good text. The novel has been lauded as ‘the great American novel’, for reasons I still don’t understand, and at it’s heart is a true tragic romance. The themes are timeless and the motivations are so simplistic that anyone can follow on with the story. Luhrmann has translated this book with his normal visual talents and created, an at times frustratingly anachronistic, but utterly enjoyable period romance.
Disclaimer: The author of this review, while enjoy they did- The Great Gatsby, they still stand by previous comments that Baz Luhrmann has direct/created some of the worst/self-indulgent cinema of the last 40 years, and while the outlook may look bright after this film, caution and scepticism should still be exercised when approaching his films.