Long awaited Baz Luhrman‘s adaptation of the famous novel is visually charming, but has some story and character issues and a horrible soundtrack.
Director: Baz Luhrman | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire
Budget: 105 million | Box office: 300 million
This had to be a love letter to Baz Luhrman, but sadly I‘ll have to remove the pink glasses. I absolutely loved his two earlier works: Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rogue. These are such type of movies which I can watch many times and each time discover something new or something forgotten. It‘s kind of good music videoclip experience, where you just enjoy what you see and can lose yourself in the images and sounds. Luhrman‘s style of course is not for everyone’s tastes, as a film lecturer rightly put it, it balances right on the edge of kitsch and manages not to fall the wrong way. I was really expecting The Great Gatsby to be similar, but this time searching for the style he lost at least part of substance and in some cases the film just feels wrong considering the material which it‘s based on.
The novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of the best creations of the last century. It got a second place in the famous widely publicly discussed 100 best novels of 20th century list, created by American publishing company Modern Library. In the film there is a cool little nod to the winner of this historical competition – James Joyce‘s Ulysses.
In general The Great Gatsby catches the essence of characters and except for some issues draws them quite beautifully and believably. It‘s really great to see Leonardo DiCaprio in the titular role – a reunion with director, who really helped him gather wider public attention and tears seventeen years ago in Romeo + Juliet. He somehow manages to be young and old at the same time, develops through various encounters and shows the darker sides of passionate love. Carey Mulligan is great for the main role too, if a bit predictable. Tobey Maguire as a narrator and writer kind of works, but it‘s still hard to get rid of Spider-Man‘s image. He needs more movies like that. It‘s cool that they cast both tough guys from Zero Dark Thirty, Joel Edgerton and especially Jason Clark in the sad role of cheated mechanic.
The general problem or better to say wrong feeling about The Great Gatsby it‘s the movie‘s emptiness. I mean, earlier Baz Luhrmans works had some kind of special form to fill the film and justify the style: poetry in Romeo + Juliet, great musical performances in Moulin Rogue. I think here he tried to use 3D as a means to fulfill the creative part of the movie, but it doesn‘t really work. It‘s filmed using right equipment, but such 3D effects as floating letters look quite cheap and without real purpose.
But that‘s still not the worst thing about the film. When I write about movies, I usually find the film‘s soundtrack and try to get into the right mood, catch the feelings set by the film. Not this time though, as The Great Gatsby soundtrack for me was totally inappropriate. I understand the director‘s desire to modernize the story in such way, but his earlier movies were such a good examples, created such impressive and memorable aural experiences, that it was quite shocking to hear cheap pop and hip-hop songs accompanying this great story.
Really, better to read the book few times or even find the 1974 film version, which got two Oscars (ironically, one for the music).