The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great Gatsby (2013)

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You know what this room needs? More flowers!
You know what this room needs? More flowers!

Twitter Plot Summary: Baz Luhrmann inflicts his “technicolor” palette on Fitzgerald’s great American novel. Relationship intrigue, obsession and madness abound.

Genre: Drama/Romance

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Key Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher.

Five Point Summary:

1. “Blah blah blah old sport.”

2. DiCaprio doing physical comedy? Well I never.

3. Tobey Maguire. Not sure what point he serves. Not in Gatsby, I mean generally.

4. The tension, tis palpable. Yeah, very sweaty.

5. “…old sport.”

I read The Great Gatsby in quite some depth whilst studying my A-Levels, so you would think that I’d know the plot, the characters, their motives and the settings inside and out. Nope. That’s not to say that Baz Luhrmann has made wholesale changes to any of that – far from it, this is a very faithful adaptation – no, nothing like that. I’d simply forgotten the story. Yep, my brain, overflowing with pointless trivia and general movie knowledge, had archived the plot of The Great Gatsby and decided it was not necessary to retrieve it until I’d seen at least 20 minutes of the film. When Gatsby shows up for the first time the whole plot came flooding back. I very nearly said “ahhhhh!” but, realising I was in the cinema, thought better of it. Despite the age of the source material I won’t spoil the story for those who have yet to see this film, but it’s rather good. The film takes a few liberties with the source material, mostly by providing a framing device of Maguire’s Nick Carraway recounting the tale of Gatsby to a psychiatrist. Somewhat unnecessary but it does at least distinguish it from the earlier 1974 adaptation with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

That and the contemporary music as well – it’s not as intrusive as you might expect, but it does stand out.

When I was a younger and more naive movie viewer I was never a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. I found him slightly annoying. I couldn’t tell you why, maybe it’s because he was what I’d classed as the latest batch of teen heartthrobs (which usually means they’re terrible actors). I can’t quite put my finger on it, but in any case I wouldn’t go out of my way to view one of his films. Then, almost inevitably (although some might argue otherwise), I got older and a little wiser. I saw Shutter Island, thought his performance (and, indeed, the film) was excellent, and contemplated that I may have been wrong about him. Then earlier this year I saw Django Unchained, and yet another excellent performance. There are probably other films I’ve seen him in since Titanic, but their name’s elude me right now. So based on those two films I knew he’d be equally as excellent as Gatsby. And he is. The end!

Do you like my moustache? It's a little one.
Do you like my moustache? It’s a little one.

Only joking. He is very, very good indeed. By comparison Tobey Maguire is merely serviceable as Nick Carraway. In fact, I’m never too sure what the appeal of Mr Maguire is, he seems to be merely serviceable in everything, even the Spider-Man films. Hmm. Adapting The Great Gatsby has always proved a tricky endeavour. There’s a lot of subtext and emotional content that remains trapped within Fitzgerald’s pages – with that in mind, Luhrmann does choose a few select moments to have the text appear on the screen, a literal literary homage if you will.

I saw Gatsby in 3D, only because it was the most convenient screening time for me. My dislike of 3D has mellowed in recent months, but I will always see a film in standard 2D give the chance. I can’t say the 3D was amazing. There were a few moments where it was used well, specifically any time the camera swoops forward at speed or, more pertinently, to give a sense of depth in a number of scenes, particularly when Carraway enters Buchanan’s house and the curtains are just EVERYWHERE.

There’s one scene in particular that Luhrmann has got spot on, and it’s key to the plot – the characters all convene in a hotel room, dripping with sweat because of the sweltering heat outside, and all is revealed. The cheating, the lies, the lot. The direction is spot on and the performances from all involved are sizzling. Except maybe for Tobey Maguire, he’s just there.

It’s a naturally divisive film, from either the perspective that Fitzgerald’s novel just doesn’t work as well on screen, to those who simply don’t like Baz Luhrmann’s stylistic choices. Sat somewhere in the middle are the people like me – not overly enamoured with it, but appreciating the aesthetics if nothing else. If anything can be said about the film is that it got people interested in reading the novel for the very first time, and if it does nothing else then it’s served its purpose.

Favourite scene: The tense and literally heated argument between the five key characters, it starts with a simmer and erupts into SHOUTING. Then goes back on simmer.

Quote: “You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past?” “No…” “Why, of course you can… of course you can.”

Silly Moment:  The CGI-heavy car sequences. Looks very silly.

Score: 3.5/5

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