Rating: 4 out of 5
Well, well, old sport! I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the latest rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece which most of us know and love.
However, I can understand why critics are especially negative with this film. With Baz Luhrmann as director and screenwriter and Jay Z as executive producer, we all knew that this could have been an extravagant hot mess. Of course, most still think it is, but I’m of the opinion that it could have been so much worse.
I mean, who could deny how absolutely gorgeous the costumes, cars, and sets were! I’ll deal with Gatsby’s irritating repetition of his catchphrase “old sport,” because all the shimmer and sparkle made me want to throw on a flapper dress and learn the foxtrot!
Given all the pomp and circumstance, I wasn’t expecting such a character-driven film. I felt that the casting was excellent, and I’m not just talking about Leonardo “He STILL doesn’t have an Oscar?!” DiCaprio.
Carey Mulligan was an exquisite Daisy, torn between her love for Gatsby and her obligations as a respectable married woman. Joel Edgerton nailed it as her racist, possessive husband Tom Buchanan. Even Tobey Maguire made a decent Nick Carraway, but that’s mostly because both he and Nick have people constantly wondering, “How did this square get into the cool kids’ club?”
Sure, this movie was over-the-top and melodramatic. Might I add that the 1974 version was too, just without all the fireworks and confetti. And don’t forget that Fitzgerald’s characters were written to be affected and biased! Everyone’s playing a role in this grand vision inside their own heads–which is why it’s so tragic when everything falls apart.
Cinematically, this film suffers from its emphasis on gratuitous 3D scenes. I could do without the frequent shots of the two mansions across the bay or the tacky depiction of Myrtle’s unfortunate end. But after watching “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!,” it’s not like Luhrmann’s flamboyant style was at all shocking.
What I wasn’t expecting was how clever this adaptation was, tipping its hat to the one before it. I caught two references to the 1974 predecessor, one where a party guest repeats Mia Farrow’s famous line, but this time to Nick instead of Gatsby. The hissy fit in which Farrow throws clothes at Robert Redford was also altered to Dicaprio delightedly tossing the clothes to Mulligan to display his newfound wealth.
Even the soundtrack was more subtle than I thought it would be. I smirked when I heard “Crazy in Love” during Gatsby’s tea party-induced anxiety, but the songs work in a weird way. And if Kanye West, Lana del Rey, and Gotye make The Great Gatsby more relevant for the Millennial generation, so be it.
So on a scale from “The Golden Compass” to “Fight Club” in terms of how good this adaptation was translating book to film, I’d give “The Great Gatsby” an above average. Perhaps along the same lines as “The Hunger Games.”
I think that The Telegraph’s review put it best when finding the perfect piece of dialogue to sum up the sentiment of this remake:
“Do you think it’s too much?” frets Gatsby, after burying Nick’s living room in flowers in advance of his fateful afternoon tea with Daisy. “I think it’s what you want,” shrugs Nick. Then Gatsby, with a thoughtful look and no apology: “I think so, too.”