Because every American classic novel needs to be turned into a modern movie, here comes Baz Luhrmann’s take on F. Scott Fitzgerlad’s The Great Gatsby in a polarizing effort to say the least.
For the novel’s traditional fans, Lurhmann’s version is too all over the place. For the modernists, it’s an interesting take on the classic. The truth is Lurhamnn’s version exists in some form of limbo between the two.
The Great Gatsby is the story of Jay Gatsby (Leo Dicaprio) who moves to West Egg in Long Island and becomes quickly known for his extravagant lifestyle, which attracts the attention of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who is sought out by Gatsby in order for the latter to get closer to Carraway’s cousin Daizy (Carey Mulligan) with whom he has a past.
Lurhamnn’s take on The Great Gatsby is uneven at best. The movie’s opening act is chaotic to say the least: from sweeping camera movement that are repeated more than once in a single scene, to a story that doesn’t seem to know how to get developed, to blitz and glitz that doesn’t seem to find a limit.
However, once the director and the movie start to find their footing – especially as chips start falling into place – The Great Gatsby becomes an enjoyable experience that manages to hook you in. That’s if you can get past the fabulousness-theme of the first act without nodding off.
Bolstered by excellent performances by Leo Dicaprio and Carey Mulligan, as well as Tobey Maguire, the movie’s characters are always interesting to watch especially when they interact. Dicaprio’s portrayal of the infinitely eccentric and optimistic Gatsby is spot-on. Tobey Maguire’s transition as the wannabe writer getting used to a life of excess is interesting and Carey Mulligan as the woman torn between the life she has and the life she could have is excellent.
The music of The Great Gatsby, however, doesn’t work. Of course, Florence + The Machine’s song is excellent and Lana Del Rey’s melodrama works here. But why would a movie about the jazz era open up with Jay-Z whose only similarity with the movie is probably his name?
The soundtrack, which plays throughout the movie, serves more as a vehicle for its corresponding singers rather than to bolster the cinematic experience of the movie it’s supposed to support.
The Great Gatsby is one of Baz Lurhmann’s better movies. Despite it being uneven and all over the place sometimes, it remains entertaining enough to pass despite it feeling too lush and shallow and superficial at points. For those who find this novel to be American literature’s most prized jewel, Lurhamnn’s version is an abomination. But if you’re willing to get past that, there’s no reason not to enjoy Gatsby when it allows you to.