Synopsis: A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor.
The Great Gatsby is a book that has been translated to film many times. Despite F. Scott Fitzgerald’s achievements as an author, the many film adaptations of his book have not been well received by critics. From the early reviews it seems as though this most recent film adaptation is receiving the same negative responses from the critics. My opinion of the film challenges the consensus and looks at the film from another perspective.
I had the chance to see this film in 3D. With a film of this genre I immediately thought the 3D was going to be more of a gimmick than anything that adds to the film. Followed by what seemed to be unnecessary 3D effects, my opinion was becoming more negatively influenced as I heard a Jay-Z song that, at first, seemed out of place. In addition to Jay-Z, there was a variety of modern day music featured by artists such as Beyonce, Gotye, Sia, and many others. These present day artists kept their voice but infused it with a 1920s sound which was surprisingly both appropriate for the period and appealed to a more modern crowd. If you’re familiar with Lurmann’s other films, you’ll notice a similarity between them with the attempts to modernize a dated period with a modern score (Moulin Rouge). While I started by seeing these elements as drawbacks of the film, they almost seemed like pieces of a puzzle that were beginning to fit together as the film progressed. The 3D combined with the upbeat score brought the “Roaring 20’s” to life for an out of place audience.
Along with the score and visuals, the characters screamed 1920s as well with their dated dialogue and more animated styles of acting. Leonardo DiCaprio is hands down amazing, which is not a surprise when it comes to most of his roles. He captures the essence of Gatsby through his vocal diction, mannerisms, and relationships with other characters. What makes DiCaprio even better is his counterpart and love interest in the film, Carey Mulligan. The two have an extraordinary on screen chemistry that is infectious to those viewing the film. Their love seems true and genuine compared to romantic interests in a majority of other films that lack such captivating chemistry. Tobey Maguire also fits well into the chemistry with DiCaprio from a friendship perspective. They’re both consistent in their honesty and respect towards one another and project those qualities most of the time without saying a word, just handling it with a nod or smile. All actors in this film gave a very emotionally loud performance which is fitting for the 1920s and the loud nature of the period. Between the clothing, the pace, and the parties, I don’t see how any of the actors could have portrayed their characters in any other way.
Overall I truly enjoyed this film. Between the vibrant visuals, the overly-animated acting, the formal and structured dialogue, and the music that transitioned the scenes, I felt that I actually saw live theater on the big screen. The main concern among critics who were displeased with the film seems to be related to comparisons with the book, and those same concerns persisted across all attempts at the film over the past 70 years. Those who are purists in regards to the book will openly express their disdain for the film while those who did not like the book will probably dismiss the film entirely. It had been awhile since I had read the book but I thought that Baz Luhrmann actually paid tribute to the true talent of F. Scott Fitzgerald which was more his words than the story. Actual words written by Fitzgerald would literally appear on the screen as they were spoken during the narration of the film. These words seemed to be reminders of the masterpiece F. Scott Fitzgerald had given the world. I saw this film as something other than the adaptation of the book. I saw a film that gave me a theater-like experience without the presence of a stage. When I think of this film only one word continually pops into my head and that word is “beautiful.”
The Great Gatsby – 8 out of 10