In review: The Great Gatsby
The summer months are an exciting time for moviegoers who wait in anticipation for the latest blockbuster films to hit the silver screen. This past weekend marked the beginning of a movie-infused summer with the release of Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby. Having taken some time to see the latter, it comes as no surprise to me that Iron Man had a more successful weekend at the box office.
The Great Gatsby tells the story of a group of people disillusioned by a promise of the ‘American Dream’ during the prosperous and flamboyant era of the ‘roaring twenties.’ With Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role as mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, this film provides a false promise of its own to be an exciting reenactment of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s legendary novel. Despite the scandal, romance, mystery and tragedy that this film contains, the true message of this story is mostly lost amidst the fast paced, whizzing 3-D cinematography employed by Baz Luhrmann.
Luhrmann is known for an over the top style of filmmaking with previous works such as Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! With The Great Gatsby, this flamboyant style reached an all time high that is mostly distracting. Fast paced camera work, computer generated scenery, digitally enhanced painted looking colours and an infusion of contemporary rap/electronic music into a film set in the ’20s collectively provide a surreal and cerebral movie watching experience that ultimately works against Luhrmann’s attempt to tell a story.
In a memorable scene from the film, for instance, the film’s narrator and co-star Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) attends a bizarre and sloppy party in a New York City apartment. Ultimately this scene is meant to expose the ugliness of excess, but this message becomes distorted by the odd use of contemporary electronic music, slow motion and fast motion camera techniques, and close up shots that are reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000). In this scene and countless others the viewer is left baffled and half-baked by Luhrmann’s wacky cinematic choices.
On a positive note, Luhrmann put together an excellent cast whose performance is almost good enough to shadow the constant feeling of disorientatio — almost. Leonardo DiCaprio rarely disappoints and his streak of awesomeness lives on in his depiction of Jay Gatsby. The film also stars Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, a young, conceited woman who Gatsby persistently lusts after. In addition to being very attractive; she can play a self-absorbed gold digger like none other!
As a fan of the original Great Gatsby story, and a bigger fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, it saddens me to say this film was mostly a let down. Luhrmann’s desire to depict the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age is appreciated, but the over the top approach he took ultimately got in the way of telling a powerful story of lust, greed, and disappointment. Maybe next time, Old Sport.