LEONARDO DICAPRIO      CAREY MULLIGAN     TOBEY MAGUIRE      JOEL EDGERTON   

THE GREAT GATSBY

 The Great Gatsby is only the 5th career feature film from Oscar nominated Baz Luhrmann. His most notable film, the Australian director’s Moulin Rouge, continues to be his high point, and from Romeo & Juliet to Australia, lots of fluff and no substance. Luhrmann doesn’t seem to care about injecting any sort of higher meaning or value into the F. Scott. Fitzgerald story that was first made into a film in 1974 with Robert Redford. Instead, Luhrmann overwhelms the story with obnoxious visual effects and camera trickery, which is all in 3D, so you feel like an ant inside a drum that won’t stop beating.

  When Nick Carraway (MaGuire) moves next door to the mysteriously famous billionaire J. Gatsby, they both become intrigued with one another. Gatsby (DiCaprio) stares from his big mansion down to the tiny little house Carraway is renting, trying to earn a decent living in New York. Carraway discovers that while Gatsby appears to have everything he could ever want, what he truly desires lies across the bay, flickering green at night as a reminder of how close, but how far he is from his true happiness. Daisy (Mulligan), who is married to rich polo star Tom Buchanan (Edgerton), is the former sweetheart of Gatsby from before the war, and now he will stop at no price to get her back.

  Carraway describes the parties held nightly at Gatsby’s house as a “kaleidoscope carnival”, and that would be a great description of the style that Baz Luhrmann brings to all of his work.  Moulin Rouge is the only film of Luhrmann’s that has received critical and awards acclaim, perhaps because it is the only one to successfully combine a rich story with the extravagant visual theatricality Luhrmann is known for. He uses many of the same identifiable tricks and traits in all of his films: the digital sky zoom, using modern music in a classic setting and his wife’s extraordinary costumes, which are Gatsby’s one true marvel.

  The film’s most interesting parts are the fleeting moments of dialogue and conversation between the characters who are otherwise distracted by fluff and show that stands in the way of character development and plot advancement. MaGuire is the film’s true lead and narrator who has zero character arc; dubbed “the watcher”, he simply stands in our way of a better point of view. If the book provides a richer understanding, then that notion is discarded in favor of meaningless pizazz that fails to impress and certainly never reaches for any profound statement or social idealism. It’s rich people bored that they have seen and done everything.

Final Thought – Underwhelming and overblown.

Grade C-

By: Dustin Chase


Dr. Donna Copeland’s

2nd OPINION

 Beautifully filmed, The Great Gatsby presents a colorful look at the tinseled life of someone who lives in an idealistic illusion (bordering on delusion) and refuses to take a good look at what is behind it from either a personal or societal standpoint.  The filming catches the mood of the person, Gatsby, and the time—Roaring Twenties (e.g., billowing delicate pale curtains blowing in from the sea, suggesting the ephemeral), while also capturing the seamier side of the party-loving rich as well as the coal stained and hardened bodies of the inhabitants of the “Valley of the Ashes” where industrial waste is dumped.  The film begins with shots through a gilded frame to the moon beyond through the ocean mist, focusing momentarily on the green light across the water until it all fades to black.  This serves as a prologue of what will transpire in the story.

 This is one of Director Baz Luhrmann’s fine productions that reflects fairly well the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel on which the film is based.  He is co-writer with Craig Pearce, his co-author on previous works (Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet, Strictly Ballroom), and they have been careful to adhere mostly to the original theme, mood, and social-emotional connotations in the book.  The party scenes are too over-the-top, but I like the way in which Luhrmann has integrated modern music into the soundtrack.  Another update I liked is the narrator recovering in a rehabilitation center, where he is told by his therapist to write the story that he is uncomfortable telling aloud.  (In the book, Nick has returned home to the Midwest to write about his disgust of what he has witnessed in New York City.)

 The film is well cast with Leonardo DiCaprio as the eccentric, charming Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as the fetching Daisy, and Tobey Maguire as Nick, the narrator whose modest origins resemble Gatsby’s, but who is nonplussed by the extravagance and provocative behaviors he witnesses.   

 In my view, The Great Gatsby successfully portrays Fitzgerald’s point about the corruptive influence of the pursuit of wealth to the neglect of substantive, timeless values, which is representative of the American ethos of the time.  Actually, it is as relevant today as back then.  

Grade:  B+