Baz Luhrmann is both the best person and the worst person to direct a remake of The Great Gatsby, a masterpiece in American literature that is still endlessly taught, analyzed, and debated upon today. His films revel in the grandiose, bringing the viewer into a spectacle wrought with flashy cinematography, costumes, and music. This film is no exception. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at; the party scenes are a flurry of color, costumes, and hip hop music, and it lends itself to the delightful high the viewer experiences.
Of course, the extravagance of the setting restricts the wonderful cast, transforming their characters into caricatures of themselves. I guess it’s kind of the point, but the story is as much about the characters as it is the setting, and I would’ve liked to see much more complexity and backstory. For example, what makes Gatsby who he is? Sure, there’s a quick summary of his life thrown in there, but that’s about it. All the nuances of the characters are hidden amongst their lavish exteriors, and a movie should take us deeper than the surface.
The actors do their best, and the worst for most of these actors is still better than much of what we see in other cinema or television. Leonardo DiCaprio can do no wrong, and he, for the most part, nails the role of the despairing, hopeful, yet phony young businessman and lover. Maguire’s performance is one-note, but his relationship with Gatsby is one of the better aspects of the film. Mulligan is good as the final link in a love triangle, but she really doesn’t get to do much more than be exactly that. Edgerton is fun to watch, coming off as a cartoonish villain that fits right into this world. Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke are miscast, leaving small marks on the film as a whole. Ultimately, though, this is far from their best work, and that’s mostly a fault of the script.
The film, at an extremely long 2 hours and 23 minutes (a whole 30 minutes could’ve been shaved off), ends up feeling empty, not really serving any purpose other than to entertain. Movies that are fun for fun’s sake usually are fun, sometimes laughingly so, but The Great Gatsby is fun for Luhrmann’s sake. The plot is muddled and the film drags on, eventually winding itself down to a resolution that should have been earned, but isn’t.
-The music choice is interesting, but I actually really like the decision to blast Jay-Z, Beyonce, and co. during the party scenes. It’s unique, and it draws a parallel between the extravagance of the time to hip hop in today’s world.
-The final sequence of scenes is really well done, in my opinion, but everything beforehand just doesn’t really serve as a good bridge into the climax.
-I found the narrating annoying, not because Maguire is a bad narrator, but because it feels shoehorned into the movie. It’s completely unnecessary, and I really don’t need to be told what’s happening on the screen every 5 minutes.
-Some scenes really click, like the one where Gatsby meets Daisy or Gatsby and Buchanan’s confrontation.
-Man, the symbolism is really heavy-handed here, isn’t it? Look, that light he’s reaching out to represents Daisy, but when he has Daisy, the outside world isn’t beautiful anymore because Daisy’s beautiful!
-This movie is gorgeous.
Credit to Village Roadshow Pictures and The Great Gatsby for all pictures. I own nothing.