Hi, Bryan Here….
This is not the first time someone has tried to adapt Gatsby into a film. There was a 1926 silent version, a 1949 version directed by Elliot Nugent (My Favorite Brunette), the 1974 flick with Robert Redford, and the 2000 television movie that starred Paul Rudd. The latter two I have seen, and while I enjoyed some of the performances, all came up weak in the end. Now we have Luhrmann, who seemed to Fitzgerald’s novel into his own ‘Moulin Rouge‘ and give it a good wash. With its large 3D visuals, the techno-inspired epic parties, and soundtrack by Jay-Z, Jack White, and Beyonce might strike a bitter chord with fans of the novel, but rest assured, Luhrmann stays fairly faithful to the book.
Gatsby starts off in a grainy black and white screen with some dull music rolling out during the opening graphics, which morph into a highly colorful 3D graphic as if the theatre curtains were being drawn up to show us that green light from the end of Daisy’s pier. We cut to Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who is in a therapist’s office and is trying to tell him what went down in the summer of 1922 when he lived in West Egg, New York. As he begins, there is a montage of scenes of New York being built and the city’s successes and declines. The archival footage mixed with the CG footage looks great with an impressive look at 1922 New York City. I’ve only seen one other film that matched this detailed look of the Big Apple and that was Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong‘.
Nick was a young graduate of Yale and wanted to try his hand on Wall Street. He moved into a small house smashed in between two large mansions, which are river front properties. Across the river is his old Yale buddy Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and his wife and cousin of Tom, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). Meanwhile, one of Nick’s wealthy neighbors is the reclusive and impressive Jay Gatsby who throws excessive and high-priced parties almost every night where politicians, gangsters, celebrities, and socialites show up. However, none of them actually know Gatsby or have even seen him before.
It’s not even until 35 minutes into the film where we get our first glimpse of Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) where is his entrance and introduction is brilliant. He simply owns the world with his smile and confidence. Meanwhile, on the other side of the lake, Daisy is still longing after her long lost love Gatsby whom she had seen five years ago before he left for the war, and while away, she married Tom, who to put it lightly is a pompous bully. But with a few “Old Sport” names shouted out, Nick and Gatsby become friends and eventually Gatsby tells him about Daisy and their love. Gatsby even asks Tom to set up a surprise afternoon tea with Daisy, which is one of my favorite scenes in the film.
DiCaprio really puts his heart on his sleeve and leaves his soul out to be embraced or rejected by Daisy, and DiCaprio’s performance as he is awkwardly trying to talk and move around his love he hasn’t seen for many years should win him an Oscar. It was so endearing to watch coming from a person like Gatsby. Meanwhile, during the affair of Gatsby and Daisy, Tom is having an affair of his own with Myrtle (Isla Fisher), the local wife of a man who runs a down and out garage on the outskirts of town. And their friend Jordan (Elizabeth Debiki), a golf pro and socialite tries to keep Daisy happy and Tom unaware of what is transpiring until everyone ends up at the Plaza Hotel, spilling their guts about their feelings, which leads to car wreck and then to Gatsby’s pool, which might be the best shot scene in the movie.
Luhrmann really slows things down after an hour into the film so we can see Gatsby’s love for Daisy grow and grow as he tries to recreate their passion from when they first met, even though Nick tells him that he can’t repeat the past, to which Gatsby informs him that he is wrong. It’s here where we lose Nick in the story as he only serves to narrate from time to time and becomes a bit tedious as the other characters are far more interesting.
The picture itself is incredible with it’s detailed sets, lavish parties, and amazing costumes. The film itself is also in 3D, which I found less than thrilling. Sure, there is an added depth, but it was unnecessary and I feel brought you out of the story and character. The only thing I could come up with as to why this was 3D, was to make more money and attract a younger audience. I think the story itself could do just fine without the added effect.
With Luhrmann’s beautiful direction and Jay-Z’s music contribution, which is a breath of fresh air and I think coincided with Fitzgerald’s love of modern music, ‘The Great Gatsby‘ is worth seeing and might just be the best adaptation yet of the iconic novel. I can’t wait to get my hands on this soundtrack and watch this on blu-ray in glorious 1080p. Recommended.