Monday, 3 June 2013

Film Review: The Great Gatsby

The new judges for Strictly Come Dancing

Set across one hot New York summer, The Great Gatsby is a film that always eluded one definitive and quintessential big-screen adaptation. Enter Australia's Baz Luhrmann, known for colourful extravaganza's Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet and Australia. Big, brash and bursting from the screen, Baz Luhrmann's take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a film that most viewers with either love or love to hate. 

The story follows Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he moves to New York in the pursuit of the American Dream; caught up in the vibrant social scene, Carraway meets extravagant millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has a proposition for him concerning Nick's cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan).

It was a florists wet-dream
Having not read the source text, I went into The Great Gatsby with only an IMDB synopsis to go on. As a result, I held no expectations over how faithful the film is to the book. I did however enjoy Gatsby, so anyone who has not gone with four feet of the book won't struggle to follow the plot or significance of certain characters; it isn't a complicated or complex narrative.

Something that makes the story that extra bit easy to follow is the narration via Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway. Reciting the film's events from a sanatorium (an ominous start), Carraway goes from 'new kid on the block' to a part of high society in a matter of mere months after perking the interest of Jay Gatsby.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a solid lead amongst the fast-paced and expensive looking 'music videos' that populate the film; he and Maguire carry the weight of the emotional scenes in the film's final third once the hysterical partying and Jay-Z tracks start to taper off.

Carey Mulligan's portrayal of Daisy Buchanan certainly is lost beneath the screen-owning performance of DiCaprio. This is a confident and assured performance the likes of which he has previously displayed in Inception and The Departed.

I tried to write a review that doesn't mention this but it can't go ignored; DiCaprio can't go a line in this film without calling someone "old sport". Every two minutes it is "old sport" here and "old sport" there. It really takes you out of it after the ninetieth time. Other than that, he is great, as I mentioned.

"Those are some mighty fine boots you've got there
One of the biggest niggles I have with Gatsby is Luhrmann's insistence on unrelenting glitz and glamour. The film is so frantic at times that it all becomes slightly meaningless and washes over you; after the sixtieth confetti-drenched poolside party at Gatsby's house it all starts to feel rather tiresome. Add to this a two and a half hour run-time, and the film does start to lag a little after the first ninety minutes.

This isn't to say it doesn't look magnificent; the vibrant shades of gold and silver that glitter, the drops of champagne and the colourful fireworks all look very pretty. I would say this though; this film is most probably not suited to 3D; whilst I only saw it in 2D, it is pretty fair to say that the 3D would get old very quickly.

The soundtrack is an exciting and contemporary mash-up of pop and R'n'B; The xx, Lana Del Rey, Jay-Z, Jack White - the list goes on. It's an interesting mixture that I felt complemented the period setting nicely.

On the whole, I found that The Great Gatsby is best appreciated when the audience understands that it is an overly extravagant and gorgeous period piece that strives to appeal to the young, the hip and the cool by remixing hot actors with classic literature to win over a teen audience. Does it achieve this goal? Yep.

It is for this reason that Luhrmann's Gatsby will not appeal to everyone. Fact. I'm sure purists who are fans of the book will pick out plenty of discrepancies that don't fit with the source text. At the end of the day however, Luhrmann has opened up the text to a new generation of youngsters and given it a fresh spin of brashness and razmatazz. It might switch off those who were looking for something a little more tonally serious but it doesn't hide the fact it is big and bold. And Leonardo DiCaprio is still pretty hunky too.

I give The Great Gatsby: 6/10


  1. Everybody here seems to be on the right page with what to do, but the style just overtakes everything they want to do. Nice review.


    1. Haha, the ending was pretty frustrating! I didn't know what was going to happen, I'd never read the book so it was all new to me. That Daisy, what a bitch haha.



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