When the trailers for Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" came out, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, there seemed to be a great cast in place as well as stellar visuals and locations to put them in. On the other, the presence of a predominantly modern soundtrack and the spectre of the 1974 version starring Robert Redford in the title role loomed large.
I tempered my feelings walking into the 2D screening of the newest adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's cherished novel, trying to put my doubts about the film out of my mind. After walking out of the viewing, I was largely impressed by the spectacle the film offered as well as faithfulness to the source material. The two stand-out performances were Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan. Newcomer Elizabeth Debicki also impressed as golfer Jordan Baker. However, the performances by Tobey Maguire and most notably, Carey Mulligan, kept "The Great Gatsby" from crossing the line from good to great.
Maguire did a decent job of playing the narrator, Nick Carraway, but his performance could have been stronger, and I was having flashbacks to "Spider-Man 3" all too often. Mulligan was very disappointing, seeming to have just read her lines from the script just before Luhrmann yelled "action." As Daisy Buchanan, Mulligan was very robotic and apart from her very attractive features, did not offer anything in terms of dramatic weight. However, as I have not seen Mulligan in her other films, I reserve judgement on whether this was a voluntary decision by her to play Daisy in such a way.
DiCaprio and Edgerton were perfectly cast. I have always been a DiCaprio fan and he once again shows his range in the title role. Edgerton has come a long way from playing a young Owen Lars in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after actors in film.
The visuals were spectacular, making me half-wish I went to see the film in 3D. However, the 2D version was very immersive and cinematic camera moves made more excitement out of the duller moments. However, much of the film did look like it was shot in front of a bluescreen. The best scenes by far were when the principal characters were in a room together and Luhrmann let the tension escalate.
Much of the modern music was not only a detriment to the 1920s-era experience, but could also prove to date the film and make it less timeless. However, Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful," which served as the film's leitmotif, was a strength of the film's soundtrack.
Luhrmann's "Gatsby" was an enjoyable experience, but I would not consider it a "great" film. All considered, it was a very solid film that, for the most part, evoked the feeling of what it was like to live in the 1920's (music aside). It enhances the novel in such a way that it makes it new for people who have read and studied it and also ropes a younger audience into Fitzgerald's timeless story.
- The Great Gatsby
- Directed by Baz Luhrmann
- 142 Minutes
- 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Originally published on June 6, 2013