Movie Review – The Great Gatsby

WARNING: Spoilers. There are plot giveaways in this review. (But nothing big so stop having a cry and read the damn review!)



IMDB Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (49,082 votes)

Director: Baz Luhrmann

The poster for The Great Gatsby.

The poster for The Great Gatsby.

To my unexpected delight, Baz Luhrmann’s rendition of The Great Gatsby is equally about the “Great” as it is about the “Gatsby”.

The spectacle of it all is a trait for Luhrmann. It seems that he’s always relished having the big bucks on his projects, perhaps because he made so many low-budget shorts in his earlier days. That being truthful is something I’m not sure about, but obviously something made Luhrmann appreciate his budget more than others may. And he used it to his advantage, like he always does. Jay Gatsby’s incredible wealth and mysterious life gave Luhrmann the perfect opportunity to throw one of the biggest parties ever – on screen of course. He pulls it off, and the spectacle of it all is what Luhrmann is all about. But the music choice, a topic of hot discussion, was something not for me. It’s not that it was an awful selection either, because it wasn’t. It’s just that Jay-Z isn’t the type of music I listen to, or enjoy…even in the slightest. No, that’s an understatement. I hate it. The rap didn’t take anything away from the film; I can understand why Luhrmann chose the music (possibly influenced by Jay-Z himself being a producer of the film). It was more of a which, than why. The original music – which was few and far between – was really good, though. Craig Armstrong brought a lot to the film.

Awesome, awesome shot.

Awesome, awesome shot.

My favourite things about The Great Gatsby were the universe surrounding Gatsby, and Gatsby himself. The town of West Egg felt ever so expansive, and seemed to blend in with a bright and bubbling New York. Luhrmann has to be praised for bringing the joy and wonder of a fictional place smack-bang into the middle of a real place. West Egg was a place of endless possibilities, but secrets lurking at every corner. It was intriguing, and submersive. And DiCaprio’s Gatsby was genuine, and genuinely brilliant. Leo created the mysterious quality we wanted to see in Jay Gatsby – one of the world’s most mysterious men. And once we learn more and more about the man we knew nothing about before, we discover Gatsby to be more intriguing than we could have ever imagined. In the end, Gatsby, the man who had everything, dies, as the man who has nothing. Leo made us feel for a character who never really had anything, and for most of it we were feeling for a man who we believed never had to earn anything either. But we found out, to our surprise, that Gatsby, behind the money, behind the fame, and behind the smoke, was a man who earned his fame for the girl he missed.

"Is it too much?"

“Is it too much?”

The cinematography in The Great Gatsby, partnered with amazing set design, gave the film the style it needed. Luhrmann, who loves to focus in on the big picture, instead shoved a cohesive story told by Tobey Maguire – who was there purely for the narrative – in, and therefore ticked off “make it interesting” on his checklist. He handed the style reigns over to the cinematographer Simon Duggan, and the three art directors, and basically yelled “Lette’ rip!”. Gatsby’s mansion was fascinating, and the giant glasses billboard at the gas/train station was terrifying intriguing. The parties were eye-dazzling, and the feel of the Gatsby universe was a speck of colour in the distance suddenly zooming straight towards your helpless eyes. Nothing was boring, ever.

Doesn't beat Gatsby, kiddo.

Doesn’t beat Gatsby, kiddo.

But Gatsby’s downfall was Mulligan, Mulligan, Mulligan. I thought Mulligan, who played opposite the incredible – and Australian – Joel Edgerton, as her Gatsby-entranced wife, was weak, and her character wasn’t very interesting or relatable. I found her performance dull, and it was a performance which could have been improved by 90% of relatively well-known actresses on the market. She didn’t really add anything to the character. Also, Luhrmann’s lead-in shots, which he overused, much like the line “old sport”, were really frustrating from a viewer standpoint. Every single thing led to another, whether it be a plane crashing (which I should put a question mark next to because I’m not sure whether it was real or not), or smoke, or the fog-light, Luhrmann annoyed me with the constant use of the technique.

Some would argue that it’s an unsatisfying end. I would agree, to a point. But all in all, doesn’t it just add to the interest? Are you not entertained? You’re not? Oh good. I know just what you need; I believe Jay Gatsby is holding a party this Saturday.

MY RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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