Despite an almost to-the-word adherence to the book by the Baz Luhrmann-directed movie incarnation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby, I can’t say that the movie does the book justice. But you know who it does justice? Baz Luhrmann. And barely even then.
The tragedy of The Great Gatsby the movie, besides the story (obviously), is that without the spectacle that is Baz, it could have been great. It had all the makings of a great movie: a willing cast that slipped subtly into their roles, fabulous costumes and music that was, somehow, both appropriate and inappropriate. It’s hard to comment on the script in that if it were bad, no one in Hollywood would have touched it. Who wants to screw up Fitzgerald?
If you’ve read the book, you know how big a role symbolism plays in it: the green light, the ash heaps, the ever-vigilant eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg and the changing seasons that mirror Gatsby’s moods. While many people don’t like how over-wrought the symbolism is in Fitzgerald’s writing, Luhrmann takes it to a new level of in your face-ness—to the point that, after the first couple of scenes, you’re going, “OK, I get it! Are you done yet?”
And if wading through the muck of obvious symbolism wasn’t annoying enough, let’s talk about 3-D. I should tell you that I didn’t see the movie in 3-D, but if you’re going, you should. There are many parts of the movie that would have been better, specifically the party scenes. And, at the very least, the writing that jumps from Nick’s page and runs across the screen IN CASE WE MISSED IT at least feels like it would serve a purpose. Otherwise, it’s too much.
It sounds like I don’t like Baz Luhrmann movies, but that’s not true. He has a unique style—quick, jerky, exaggerated—that serves him well for movies like Moulin Rouge. While, at the beginning, it seems like the movie was about to amp up and go full speed, Luhrmann style, it seems like he stopped short of his signature type of all-out crazy and instead just said, “whatevs.” I mean, like I said earlier, he still makes it typical Baz spectacle, just not in the right way.
Enough with the complaining. What’s great about The Great Gatsby? Well, Leo is great. Particularly at the end, when he’s waiting for Daisy to call. His hope is so heartbreaking and it almost makes you think he’s right—she will call! She must! Even though you’ve read the book and know exactly what’s about to happen, you think maybe you read it wrong and everything will turn out fine.
Carey Mulligan is good, but not hypnotizing like I’d imagine a real-life Daisy would be. Her looks make her perfect to play any 20s-era character, but her voice isn’t full of money. Not that it matters here, because Gatsby’s biggest line in the entire book ISN”T EVEN IN THE MOVIE. Issues. I have issues with this.
Overall, I’m inclined to tell people—see it, don’t see it, it won’t change your life, but it won’t waste your $23 (at least here in L.A. Side note: remember when movie tickets were $6? Ah, the 90s).
Bitch Rating: 2.5 out of 4 bitches — worth watching.
Title: The Great Gatsby
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Length: 142 minutes