The Great Gatsby Review
Baz Luhrmann is a very particular film director with a very particular style. I am not sure how often its worked either. I felt "Moulin Rouge!" to be not only the highlight of his career, but practically the only film he's made worth merit. It was an engrossing and delirious experiment that surprisingly paid off in more ways than one. The rest of his career, the "Australia's," the "Romeo + Juliet's" all seem a little too much on every front, those experiments definitely shattered their test tubes. I think overall, "The Great Gatsby" falls somewhere in the middle, sadly I think it feels farther from "Moulin Rouge!" and closer to "Romeo + Juliet." Never a good sign.
All the technical aspects of "The Great Gatsby" are exquisitely impressive. But I think Luhrmann's hyperactive, hyper-stylized version of storytelling is quickly becoming self-parody. Everything we've come to expect from Luhrmann; hyper-kinetics, excess, crazy soundtracks, over-the-top everything, etc...is on full display in "The Great Gatsby." Despite a great cast, DiCaprio, Mulligan, McGuire, Edgerton, Clarke, Fisher fail to evoke any type of emotion out the script. It feels like a bunch of actors got together to play dress-up, instead of coming to act. While the movie is beautiful to look at, the spectacle cannot be the only thing that makes the movie worth watching. As I've grown up and my tastes have matured, I demand more than just a pretty picture. Especially coming from a source as rich as the book, this movie was very inert.
Despite being based upon marvelous source material, this version of "The Great Gatsby" seems to be engineered from the template of "Moulin Rouge!" We meet Nick Carraway (Toby McGuire) after the events unfold. He's sitting down at a typewriter, getting ready write everything we are about to see. Carraway moves to New York City during the roaring 20's. He eventually meets a figure who will change his life, this figure harbors a secret throughout the entire movie. The secret gets revealed and once everything feels as if its in the clear, tragedy strikes before the credits roll. And Carraway lives out his days in misery. Sound familiar yet?
The thing is, even though Ewan McGregor sat down at the typewriter and narrated all of "Moulin Rouge!" Ewan was able to evoke raw emotion from his character. Nothing in "Moulin Rouge!" seemed over-narrated. In "The Great Gatsby," everything is over-narrated. So McGuire's character ends up a blank the entire movie, sense we don't learn anything about him at all. The figure who changes Carraway's life is Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious millionaire who requires Carraway's help to steal the heart of Daisy (Cary Mulligan), Carraway's second cousin. Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) but has had a romance with Gatsby in the past. The rest of the film is how Gatsby and Daisy reconnect and how that eventually leads to Gatsby's downfall. None of it is thrilling or exciting because the actors don't make it matter. DiCaprio in particular is completely wrong as Gatsby, as he does what he does best: overacts. Mulligan tries to give the film something of a pulse, but by the end, its just not enough.
The cinematography, special effects and costuming are all wondrous but I knew that going into this film. What was on my mind was if Luhrmann could get us to care about the characters, and I don't think he did that. The soundtrack was disappointingly overdone, and everything was exaggerated to point that it felt mind-numbing. Luhrmann has proven that he can create scenery that dreams were made of and on a narrative level, he reached a high with "Moulin Rouge!" However, he's never reached that high since, so I'm beginning to wonder if Luhrmann is a one-trick pony.
Also, I am not sure if "The Great Gatsby" really works in 2013. When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the book so many years ago, it was during a time when many aspired to be rich. That was a lifestyle everybody pushed towards and it was fun to fantasize about that lifestyle. Today, a cultural and social shift has set itself up. When people watch Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian on TV, they are embarrassed for them. When parents see how negatively fame has affected Amanda Bynes, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber; they immediately want something better for their children. Who can blame them, I'm young and I am repulsed by what quick-fame has turned these people into. With the countless scandals and stories that affected our very own economy, it makes since why being rich is hardly glamorized anymore. All the more reason why "The Great Gatsby" is a real head-scratcher in this day in age.
"The Great Gatsby" is incredibly short on narrative and becomes an expensive lightshow. Nothing more.
FINAL GRADE: C