The Great Gatsby (3D)

2013-05-17 09:12
 
The Great Gatsby
 
What it's about:

Writer gone stockbroker Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire) moves to become a part of the glamorous and alluring post-war New York. He's invited in by his mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) to be part of a world more opulent and delightful than he could imagine. Carraway is instantly drawn by Gatsby's charm and mystery, along with Gatsby's obsessive ambition to win back the woman he loves.

What we thought:

How do you go into the biggest movie of the year with a clear, objective mind? How do you watch the biggest movie of the year without comparing it ruthlessly to one of the most remarkable books in our literary history? And when you've been looking forward to it for two whole years?

People have tried to make Gatsby movies. I haven't loved the previous attempts. So you can imagine my excitement at hearing the illustrative genius, Baz Luhrmann had decided to direct The Great Gatsby. Oh, and starring my favourite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. (I nearly squealed the roof off a twenty four-floor building, I'll have you know.)

The hype just got bigger and bigger: Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Tiffany, Moët. But we're dealing with one of the most incredible, layered and complex books ever written. It's not the fashion, the glitz or even the actors that I was looking forward to – I needed SOMEONE to finally do this novel justice on the silver screen.

That screen was silver. It was diamond encrusted, gold-plated, champagne drenched opulence. The aesthetically enchanting side of this film was never really going to be in doubt, especially with Moulin Rouge's Luhrmann at the helm.

He painted every aspect of Fitzgerald's excessive, drunk world with the accuracy of a photograph. If you were excited for that part of it – to see the imbalanced glamour of the time – not a single moment will disappoint you. I was even happier, however, to see that that’s not the only area in which Luhrmann's brush hit the mark.

The imagery, motifs and themes that so many of us studied in the book are portrayed perfectly. I quite honestly caught my breath when Nick Carraway (Maguire) walked into the Buchanans' living room to find Daisy (Mulligan) swimming in a flurry of floating white curtains. This attention to detail doesn't wane. That bright green light over the bay; the blurry, dream-like cinematography every time Jay and Daisy are together. Luhrmann's focused on all the important symbols and themes, and that helps punctuate the story, especially for those who haven't read F Scott Fitzgerald's novel.

While Luhrmann has used his well-known creativity with the camera, he hasn't gone to quite the animated, sweeping extreme that we saw in Moulin Rouge or even Strictly Ballroom. I think he realised he didn't need gimmicky camera-work or that near-animated look to tell this story. He knew he was working with something perfectly written – so much so that he even uses lines from the text and has Carraway typing or writing them on the screen.

From what I can recall, the narration is also an exact copy of the novel, which is thrilling when the movie starts as it reminded me of the first time I picked that novel up. It's a balance of brilliant filming and clever editing.

Ah, but what was most exciting? My dear Leo. Who better to play Jay Gatsby? Honestly – can you think of anyone more perfect? Before even considering his acting skills, he's already the Gatsby package: Well suited to slick hair, handsome and naturally charming on screen. And then that whole talent bit. DiCaprio has this way of bringing characters out without needing dialogue.

You fall in love with Gatsby the way that Nick does, you're scared of him and suspicious of him – all through Nick's eyes, and not through Nick's narrative. It's through DiCaprio’s portrayal. I was initially surprised to find myself on Tom Buchanan's side in that famous hotel room scene. I thought, 'But no, you're supposed to love Gatsby, you're supposed to want him to win'. I was very nearly disappointed.

It was only later I realised how well the combination of Luhrmann's directing and Leo's acting takes you on that journey with Carraway. That full rollercoaster of fascination that the narrator has with this mysterious, wonderful, hopeful man.

I'll also categorically state that Maguire as an actor usually annoys me – I blame Spiderman – but I did expect him to be perfect for the role of Carraway. I loved him in the role and think he filled that integral role perfectly.

It was a big deal for whichever actress was picked to play Daisy, not because it was a lead role, but because she says so little. That actress had to act her face off, and Mulligan Daisy-ed the shit out of it. She's beautiful and rich and soft and as thin as air. And if there's one thing Baz Luhrmann can do, it's tell a tragic love story.

His direction of these great actors has your heart fluttering in the stolen scenes with Gatsby and Daisy. You can feel the weight of the importance of those moments to Gatsby, and the confused frivolity in Daisy's affections. That hope you feel with Jay lasts right until the end, and it breaks your heart in that tragic way that both Luhrmann and Fitzgerald intended.

And may I just give Isla Fisher and Amitabh Bachchan a round of applause. Loved them both in their smaller roles as saucy Myrtle and the sketchy Meyer Wolfsheim respectively.

I won't go into detail in terms of how fantastic the styling and music was. You can see how spectacular the wardrobe is in the trailer, and as is his wont, Luhrmann uses a mix of current music with old-school edits to communicate the mood of the time wonderfully. It excites you more than simply using old jazz would have, and it's clear that that's what he wanted to do: Make you feel everything Carraway was feeling.

Using unedited music from the time wouldn't have worked – it'd make you too much of a voyeur looking in on that world, as opposed to making you feel it, as though you're there. That Jay-Z, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey soundtrack is no favour to the current music industry – it's very deliberately and cleverly used.

A nitpicking section? Perhaps worthwhile, as I did find a few things immediately, shall we say, "off". While I've mentioned my appreciation for the true-to-novel narrating, in the film it does seem very heavy at points, and even unnecessary at others. One such example is the constant mention of that all important green light – Carraway talks about it at least five times, when it's a symbol and motif that is filmed obviously enough to not need the narrator pointing it out constantly. Another very important point that I found distinctly over-narrated I won't mention, as it could be a spoiler for those who haven't read the book. Suffice it to say that Carraway's constant narration is at times a bit verbose.

Should I even mention the 3D? The goddamn goddamning frikkin' 3D. As always, it has about three points where it's used effectively: The intro and credits, and some opening scenes featuring snow. Even the writing that scribbles across the screen isn't 3D enough to make it worthwhile. But luckily, it doesn't spoil anything as such. I just hate its pointlessness. (Could you tell?)

So should you go watch it? After all this hype, can it ever possibly live up to your expectations? You're not going to be calmly entertained, I'll tell you that. You're going to be sucked into that beautiful, expensive extravagance; then be curious; then wary and suspicious; sympathetic, scared and doubtful; and tragically sad. And perhaps, like me, you'll still be thinking about the hopelessness two days afterwards.

If Fitzgerald could've painted his novel through moving pictures, this is the way he would have done it. What more you could want, I don't know.


Following two years of hype and the expected extravagance of one of the world's most beloved stories, how can we possibly enjoy the year's biggest movie?

Jack 2013/05/17 10:01 AM
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Oh great another overly stylized Baz Luhrman film that's going to be overacted.
Fiona 2013/05/17 10:14 AM
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Kim, sounds like you and this movie should get a room ;P
evert 2013/05/17 11:17 AM
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Seriously, how does news24 pick these "critics"?
kate 2013/05/17 11:55 AM
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No i agree with this review. It's a beautiful filmand very well made.
city girl 2013/05/17 1:50 PM
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The one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was by far better
city girl 2013/05/17 1:52 PM
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The one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was by far better
Matthew 2013/05/17 9:53 PM
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Of all people in the world, why Baz Luhrman? His films are too visual and have poor storytelling. He chose to adapt one of the greatest books ever written? Disastrous is what I call it. There are so many more talented directors - David Fincher, John Cameron Mitchell, Paul Thomas Anderson. Hell, even Quentin Tarantino could do the book justice. But the storytelling is the crux of the book and something tells me Luhrman ignored that aspect completely....
michael 2013/05/18 4:35 PM
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never read the book so I was expecting an action gangster movie..heehee far from it...I enjoyed the music and the popcorn was also not bad...
Adie 2013/05/19 7:59 PM
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I thought the movie was brilliant! Loved the opulence of it all, the tragedy, the romance, the acting and visually it was sublime. Loved it.
Speedy 2013/05/20 7:56 AM
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Never read the book either. Saw the original movie which was OK. Strange that all the women love it and the men are non-commital about it.
LT 2013/05/20 8:40 AM
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Wonderful movie, thoroughly enjoyed it. The pace and decadence of the era was stupendous!
Selma 2013/05/20 10:04 AM
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Leonardo neither has the charm, grace nor the looks to pull off the part. Comparing him to the understaed Redford is comparing a mule to a race horse.
Fatal flaws 2013/05/20 12:57 PM
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The modern music was totally out of place - nothing else in the movie had a modern look or feel - so why show people in 20's clothes, with a 20's style band, dancing 20's style to modern music??? Car racing scenes & party arrival scenes looked totally over the top and animated in 3D.
Dee 2013/05/21 1:39 PM
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I watched this movie this weekend based on this review and was haunted by it. I never read the book and found the movie to be beautifully made and the storyline to be very sad and cynical. Leo was amazing in this role, and I'm not even a fan of his. I only wish Rachel McAdam had played Daisy, whatsherface was too weak.
Matthew 2013/05/22 1:36 PM
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@Dee, the character of Daisy Buchanan is SUPPOSED to be weak.
Omgeklits 2013/05/24 10:51 AM
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Have more or less made up my mind that I am never going to see a 3D movie again. Gimmickry and dark to levels of unpleasantness.
Max 2013/06/07 10:02 AM
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The most flowery, luxurious, visional love story I have ever seen
Carcotas 2014/01/11 1:43 PM
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Coco Chanel said "Once you've dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off." This is what Baz should have done. In The Great Gatsby's case, a lot more than one thing should have been taken off or out of this film. It is Over The Top; Bad. Too much fake CGI. In a major cinema complex in Sydney in Cinema 1 (largest theatre in the complex) on the second night of opening it was bearly one quarter full and even then a whole row of 10 patrons walked out after that silly scene in the underground jazz club. It is a cacophony of nothingness. Too much fluff and tinsel. No sympathy for any character could be felt. P.S. And the blinking green light... Yes, we can see it. Yes, we know what it means. Yes, we are not dumb!! More about the movie you can also find it here http://movieinfodb.com/en/movie/64682/The+Great+Gatsby-2013
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