As the vultures known as entertainment reporters continue to pick apart Baz Luhrman’s rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, I took to this morning thinking that I will see what all the hubbub was about. After taking some time to reflect on the two hour and 22 minute jaunt through the Jazz age, I came to the following:
I liked it.
Granted, I usually find something in everything to like. But before seeing this movie I read a bunch of reviews lamenting over Luhrman’s take; so I figured going into the story I would be bogged down by something outlandishly wrong about the Australian’s adaptation. But there really wasn’t.
Was the story more focused on the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy? Yeah, but all the tinges of the demise of the Jazz age were present throughout the film in varying degrees of significance. Was the movie so opulent that it may have been distracting? To some. But was that needed to tell the story? It so definitely was.
What the film did well was how it built up the “life is a party” vibe within the first portion of the film and then bring everything to stark emptiness once Daisy has been pulled from Gatsby’s life. I think that really translated to the demise of the era. It also, as many of Luhrman’s films do, brought the film closer to a modern feeling by use of more current music. But it felt different than Moulin Rouge or Romeo & Juliet as in watching the party scenes, with the massive amounts of people, the copious alcohol and the sheer nature of the generation, because it felt like if you changed any of those aspects to more modern garb, you would be watching a story about current times. I think that is what Luhrman was trying to do – prove to the audience that this is the demise of a person realizing they cannot really change themselves in the eyes of the aristocracy that runs, well, everything.
I really dug how Leonardo DiCaprio played Gatsby. He would appear ultimately confident in portions of the film then he would become a mess of something (I can’t think of the right word) whenever he had to deal with Daisy. It was like he was imploding with the thought of not having his dream work out the exact way he planned it. Carey Mulligan was also a breath-taking Daisy. I loved her in the last group scene when Gatsby and Tom (played by Joel Edgerton) were confronting each other. She was so torn that it really felt as if she was coming apart at her seams. She also delivered some really powerful lines in that scene. I loved when she got up close to Gatsby and told him that she couldn’t say she never loved him (Tom).
The best thing you can do before going into this film is to wipe away your preconceived notions of the book and fall into the film for what it is: to me, it’s the story of two men Gatsby and Nick Carraway (Toby McGuire – who I thought did a wonderful job playing our eyes of the film). It tells the journey of Gatsby and how his life – his desire to climb into the social circles of men better than his bloodline – was ruined by falling in love. And it also tells the tale of Carraway. How his account of everything that happened that summer changed his perspective on living – which ultimately shapes our reaction to the film.
Maybe people are critical of it because the book is held in such high esteem that tampering with it almost seems like heresy. Maybe it is because we are too enamored with the first half of the film that when it drops none of us wants to be there – that’s an interesting thought (sorry stream of consciousness tangent upcoming). Maybe this is a book that cannot be shown in the movies because the book rallies against the entertainment we dally our days with?
I’ll let you decide all of that on your own. The bottom line: I liked it. It’s not perfect – It doesn’t leave you raving about it afterward (nor are you supposed to, I think). But it is provoking. Which is the biggest compliment I can pay it. It will illicit a reaction of utter admiration for they way Luhrman tells a story, or just a societal ambivalence at a book most people half-heartidly read in 11th grade English.
If I had to rate it: 3.7 out of 5 (although my heart says 4, I fear it may be unattainable).