The not-so-great Great Gatsby.

2 Jun

the_great_gatsby_movie-wideWhen my latest addition of Empire magazine came through the post I was really excited to see what thoughts they had on Baz’s latest creation The Great Gatsby. I had previously watched the film and wanted to see if our opinions matched (which often they don’t where the dreaded star rating is concerned) and so I sat down with my very British cup of tea and pulled open the crisp shiny pages. OUCH that has to hurt. Two stars! Two! Just a mere 10 pages before the Gatsby review is the Fast and Furious 6 one where it received three stars! I am literally speechless.

‘The Great Gatsby’ based on the 1925 novel of the same name by F. Scott-Fitzgerald, centres around the life of Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), a young and mysterious millionaire living in the fictional town of West Egg, Long Island, and his love for the blonde (in all senses of the word) and beautiful Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). The book, a cautionary tale of the pressures that come with ‘the American dream’, is not only considered one of the all time American classics but was a book written way before it’s time and remains an inspiration for aspiring novelists worldwide. That being said, choosing to adapt the beautifully written pages into a successful onscreen experience, especially when others have tried and failed, is the boldest of moves.

But fear not Baz Luhrmann is here. His visuals have astounded viewers many times before, particularly in the extravagant and fantastical world of ‘Moulin Rouge’, and his screenplays for both ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Australia’ have brought grown men to tears. Surely of all the directors he would be able to bring the upper class world of West Egg to life and do it justice. Right?

the-great-gatsby-wbp10Well, brought it to life he has. Gatsby is a lavish affair; parties with more glitter and tinsel than a Christmas tree, cars with more shine and sparkle than a ballroom dancers changing room and settings more exquisite than the Queens caviar. However by seeming to focus solely on extravagant visuals and topping it all off by shooting in 3D (a component that seems to be obligatory in Hollywood at the moment) the film loses any hope of portraying the excessive and idealistic world that Fitzgerald wrote about with any depth or character at all. The script falls flat lacking any real substance and the words of the book become lost in translation, particularly when being delivered by the airy-fairy tones of Mulligan and the mono-tone drone of Toby Maguire’ s Nick Carraway (Jay Gatsby’s ever-curious neighbour and friend), and the over-use of the phrase ‘Old Sport’ borders on comedic by the end of the film, emphasising the point that the visuals took precedent over the screenplay. Also the Jay-Z curated soundtrack, although pumping throughout, is disjointed and often accompanies a time-wasting and time-filling montage, leaving you with a bitter taste of poor execution.

the_great_gatsby_37472The Great Gatsby’s saving grace is its leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio. In his candy-coloured suit and sporting a baby-face freshness he plays his character with more understanding and finesse than the film deserves. Further cementing himself in the Hollywood A-List he plays Gatsby as a man crumbling under his own extravagant facade searching for himself in the arms of a woman. Delivering lines with exuberant precision he shines brighter than the strands of tinsel falling beneath his feet. The other star (in my eyes anyway as Empire definitely didn’t agree saying he ‘offers a one-note charisma’) is Joel Edgerton. Since small but well-executed roles in King Arthur and Ned Kelly I have had my eye on Edgerton, and a focus-stealing role opposite the hard ass British export Tom Hardy in ‘Warrior’ shot him to the big time. He is a worthy challenger for Daisy’s affection, an emotionally complex man who pays the game and all of the girls that come with it. It’s a promising role, that although won’t win him any Oscars, proves that little roles can lead to big things.

great-gatsby-joel-edgertonElsewhere, Carey Mulligan butchers the role of Daisy. With the intention of playing her as a frail flower she comes across as bored and apathetic (much like the live-in narrator of this romance saga Toby Maguire), and even DiCaprio starring alongside her doesn’t ignite the fire. It is hard to root for the leading lady when she can’t root for herself. On the complete polar opposite Elizabeth Debicki, Daisy’s best friend Jordan Baker, walks smoothly and majestically through the 1920’s world, not only looking the part but acting it with a strong performance that leaves you wanting more.

The Great Gatsby has suffered harsh criticism world over due to its inability to live up to the prestige of the beloved book. But you have to treat them as two separate entities. Whilst the film is far from perfect, with some questionable performances, a lack of plot and rhythm, and a director who hopes to please audiences’ eyes before their hearts, it is a good film. DiCaprio and Edgerton hold the weight of the glitter and diamond encrusted world on their broad shoulders and without them the film would be worthy of the aforementioned 2 star rating, but with them it is worth watching. Baz hasn’t exactly added to his list of success’ but he has managed to create a stunning and luxurious world, that although remains on the screen for an hour too long, is a pleasure to be in. Until next time Old Sport.

Selling Point – The challengers, DiCaprio and Edgerton.

Quote-a-rama – ‘I knew it was a great mistake for a man like me to fall in love…’ – Jay Gatsby.

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2 Responses to “The not-so-great Great Gatsby.”

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