So is Gatsby great? Or is over hyped dribble?
The honest truth, its stands a little in-between: Baz Luhrmann has kept the film locked to it’s original score, showing us the grandeur of the raging 1920’s, and while it’s romantically engaging to view, it’s a little overdone.
The story from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literacy classic, comes from the eyes of Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire) who finds himself caught up in the glitz and the glamor of the Jazz Era, through his association with his overly cute cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her womanizing husband Tom (Joel Edgerton).
Life begins to get hectic for the quiet Carraway, as he gets invited next door to the magnificent parties of the mysterious billionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). There he meets the man who has had a million different stories told about him: he’s a son of German king, he’s a spy, he’s the son of wealthy parents and so forth.
DiCaprio is unflinching as a confident, slick and seductive Gatsby, but as his hunt for the love of Daisy begins to take hold, we begin to see the aura of Gatsby crumble before us.
DiCaprio is known for playing the man, unable to deal with past ghosts and the pressures that come with pretending to be someone else (just look at his performance in The Departed to take note).
Credit is due to Luhrmann for letting DiCaprio do his thing; it’s the strongest aspect of the film. Maguire, Mulligan and Edgerton do enough to keep the film interesting, but at times you wished they would thrown more into the roles. The film itself was ‘overdone’ but not the acting.
With Luhrmann being Luhrmann, the lust of the theatre comes into play. Gatsby is too theatrical, too overbearing for a book with such subtle text. The party scenes are gorgeously shot, as are the colours and the fast-paced narrative that it’s shot in, but what the film truly lacks is the development to the build tension.
The dramatic scenes are too focused that there is little to build upon; you almost know the drama is there in front of you. The upbeat music, the pounding sounds, the ingestion of colour, underlies a lack of tension.
Of course this could be the way Luhrmann wanted it. This is the modern take of the American Classic; infused with the beats provided by Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey and even Beyoncé. And the rapid quick firing of shots, transitions that coming racing out in front of you would suit the modern storytelling.
But that’s the problem: it’s too much of a today’s modern storytelling that it fails in resembling the 1920’s. It’s a gorgeous film to view, but it’s too much to take in.
At the same time, for a book that only goes for a mere 145 pages, there are 143 minutes of film – and its here that the ‘overdone’ factor comes out again. At one point, I found myself wondering where this film would be heading, but more importantly, when it’s going to end.
It would have been better if it were shorter and slicker and went right to the heart of the film instead of laboring around and it’s the reason the film fails to reach greatness.