THE GREAT GATSBY
I believe that it is a challenge to adapt a literary classic with a stature like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic “The Great Gatsby” which is also known as “The book that many teenagers were forced to read in High School”. The Great Gatsby is such a beloved property that the fans are saying that this is one of those books that are rather “un-filmable” even if they did more than 3 film versions of the novel in the past. And of all the people to pick up this property is, Baz Luhrmann. Who is known for delivering energetic and over the top movies (haven’t seen Australia yet) that made us look at our watches for more than 5 times while watching his movies. The only thing worth expecting in properties like this is the fact that “Did this movie do the book justice?” (Or atleast “Did this movie not make F. Scott Fitzgerald roll in his grave?”)
The Great Gatsby – Is based on a book with the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it follows an ambitious young man, Nick Carraway as he moves to a place next to a palace-like mansion owned by a mysterious man named, Gatsby. When he begins question about the mysterious man who lives next door to him, he was invited to his larger than life party that he throws every weekend. When he finally meets him in person not only does he discover more about him but also leads him to a risky scandal of Gatsby with Nick’s second cousin, Daisy who happens to be the wife of an wealthy and aggressive businessman, Tom Buchanan.
I was expecting a lot from this movie since I have re-read the movie just recently (If I said that my English teacher didn’t force me to read this, will you be surprised?). The movie seemed to have the (what I liked to call) Baz Luhrmann clichés as I see the previews, the movie felt like I will have a lot of pretty things to look at, there will be some stand out performances, it could possibly bore me, and there will be some over the top stuff. Most of these things did come true… Unfortunately.
First thing’s first, I have read the book but I don’t want to compare this and the book way too much because I don’t think that there is a point to it, that being said I thought that this movie did the book justice – for the most part. The movie did feel like it was almost adapted word for word, there are most lines that I remember was said in the book, the way Carraway narrates and describe his experiences and also The way they did set the stage for the Great Gatsby himself and his continuous obsession for the one thing he holds on to was set up really well. Though It didn’t really hit the right notes as the book did, the film carries everything important about the book but there wasn’t really a huge impact due to the pacing of the film. The film would begin energetically and towards the mid-section of the film it would be slow and presentation-like (where they would switch from one scene to the next), the film ends that is rather rushed and you left wishing that the ending could’ve been handled a tad bit better.
At first, what worries me was Baz Luhrmann’s direction in this movie; he’s more of a stylistic director (don’t get me wrong the visuals he handled in his past movies were pretty good to look at) but when he does actors the tendency of the performances would rather be “over the top” like his visuals. From what I heard from the critics, The movie is “style over substance” as the movie showcase the parties in the first half it did felt like that (which did work on scenes like that), in fact it was like an extended music video especially in the second and the last third of the movie, the visuals made this movie look cartoony which made it very distracting to look at, though most scenes that did feature the cartoony visuals did work and were entertaining to look at as it brings the familiar landmarks and scenery of the book to life in this movie. I thought the style brought the partying aspect of the movie to life well, since one of the concepts of the movie is about “Old Money” and how far people would go with that much money and power like Gatsby so I thought the style as they feature the parties (and the story itself during the second and third act) did work.
We’ve seen Baz Luhrmann tackle this kind of story before of lost love or romance in general, I thought Baz Luhrmann handled that aspect well in the movie. His modern-esque direction worked really well in the narrative of the movie and it somehow gave us a fresh enough take on the literary classic, though this film is still told a bit exaggerated from start to finish. When I did mention an extended music video I was also referencing the music in this movie. The music in this movie is a love-hate relationship to me; the music has this jazz feel that is really authentic to the timeline, but in the mix there’s a lot of modern sound to it (from Jay-Z, Beyonce, Will.I.am., etc.) which for the most part didn’t really fit very well. I thought the addition of jazz-hip-hop songs was a very ballsy move for this movie. I was fine with most of the choices as long as that move wasn’t done just to cash in for the soundtrack sales. The visuals in this movie are a little bit over blown, most of the time they will look good while others could've been easily filmed without the green screen, they are rather distracting to look at.
The performances in the film have both weak and great performances; most of them are even perfectly casted as their characters. I thought Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly casted for the great Gatsby himself, If I can remember reading the book and heard that Leo was chosen for the role I can actually envision him as Gatsby the entire time of reading the book. Like I said earlier, they did handle his side of the story well enough and he is literally the best parts of the film. But Leonardo DiCaprio was not the only one who is the best in this film, Joel Edgerton’s version of Tom Buchanan is depicted well on-screen and Joel Edgerton surprisingly did a very good performance (he came a long way from being young Uncle Owen in the trilogy that needs to be forgotten). Though Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway was just “OK”, he’s one of those characters where I wished the filmmakers would have taken liberties on. He is still a (bit) one-dimensional character, he wasn’t also properly developed when he is around characters and presenting the story itself, him having an impact or a real relationship with one of the characters were rather vague. Carey Mulligan’s Daisy is also just “alright”, her performance was a bit over the top and cartoonish at some point.
In the end, The Great Gatsby is a faithful enough adaptation to F.Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic. It does feature monumental imagery and scene from the book that will make the fans of the book be happy of what they just saw. Though the scenes of the monumental events of the book was rather lacking in terms of impact and development as you do leave the theater wanting more from the film. Though the characters are well casted enough and most of the performances were rather weak with a few considerations like Leonardo DiCaprio and Joel Edgerton. If you are a huge fan of the book, this could be both a love-hate relationship for you, if you are just a casual film-goer it’s not really something to rush to the theaters.
+BOTH DECENT AND GREAT PERFORMANCE
+FAITHFUL ENOUGH TO THE BOOK
- MESSY PACING
-LACKING EMOTIONAL WEIGHT
-MOST OF THE VISUALS WERE OVERBLOWN
-MOST OF THE VISUALS WERE OVERBLOWN
3/5 - NOT THAT BAD, NOT THAT GOOD