Naturally, I’d start this review by saying I loved the book. And I went to see The Great Gatsby with very mixed feelings – so mixed indeed that I almost didn’t want to go.
Reason #1: I really don’t like Baz Luhrmann’s work. I actively disliked Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! and watching the trailer for Gatsby made me fear the worst: A cartoonesque butchering of a literary classic.
So I was quite happy to find Gatsby, overall, to be a fairly faithful adaptation. I love that they didn’t mess with the story or the characters, and stayed true to the book’s spirit and meaning.
That said, it really does annoy the hell out of me that Luhrmann has to constantly turn the volume up to eleven on the cinematography – from the rollercoaster camera moves and the flashy effects to the over-cluttered, glitzy sets – to the point where it all becomes grotesquely cartoon-y and the whole experience loses its emotional impact. (The car scenes actually made me feel like I was in the middle of the Roger Rabbit car chase. Too bloody much.) So, while breathtakingly pretty to look at overall, the film didn’t really move me one bit because there was just too much circus going on all the time.
But maybe that’s exactly what Luhrmann intended, and the over-the-topness indeed cleverly captures the fake, superficial world of the fateful Gatsby and his beloved. But I still found it visually annoying, and it did ruin the atmosphere a bit.
Welcome to my party. We blow the whole place up with fireworks every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm, 10pm and midnight.
Reason #2: Leonardo DiCaprio playing Gatsby. I was a teenager when Titanic happened, and so utterly annoyed by the hype that I stayed away from his movies until, very recently, I watched Shutter Island, Inception and Django Unchained and realised that he actually does really good stuff these days.
I still get this “Ugh, not him again” reflex sometimes, simply because his face was just bloody everywhere when I first got into movies and magazines and all that pop culture, but I’ll concede that he is a brilliant actor. And he certainly is the perfect man for Gatsby. I mean, wow. He didn’t play Gatsby, he was Gatsby. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor play a character so precisely like I’d imagined him when reading the book.
Lovely as Daisy: Carey Mulligan
Leonardo DiCaprio: Actually amazing as Gatsby
Overall I would call this a well cast and very faithful adaptation of a great classic. And parts of the film – the quieter, less flashy ones – were beautifully composed. The scene where Gatsby first shows Daisy around his house pretty damn near broke my heart. It’s just a shame that some of the beautiful vagueness and delicate atmosphere of the book got drowned out by too many sequins, fireworks and a largely horrendous and inappropriate soundtrack.
For that, 3 out of 5 pens.
* If you don’t get this reference you should watch This Is Spinal Tap. Actually, watch Spinal Tap anyway.