Jennie’s Review: The Great Gatsby

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Leonardo DiCaprio is Fantastic
Visually Stunning
Encourages reading (or re-reading) the Novel

The Bad:

Slower paced than expected
The great music is not prominent enough

Cast & Crew:

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Amitabh Bachchan

Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language

As was expected, the style of this movie is stunning.  Every last detail seems to have been meticulously thought out, down to where the glitter lands on the hoards of extras at the lavish parties.  I spent the extra 3 bucks and saw the movie in 3D.  I enjoyed the 3D and thought that is was well executed.  I don’t know if I would go as far as to say you should definitely see it in 3D, but I liked it in that format.  I will admit (I’m sure to my mother’s dismay) that if I read The Great Gatsby in the past, I have zero recollection of it.  So, my reflections are purely about the movie and not judging it against the literature.

The film opens with Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) in, what appears to be a Psychiatrists’ office at a Sanitarium.  He is telling the story of how he ended up a committed, depressed, and hopeless drunk.  The doctor knows that Nick used to enjoy writing, so when he struggles to vocalize his emotions and experiences, the doctor gives him some paper and a pen.  And so, the setting is that Nick is writing this great American novel about his experience with “The Great Gatsby.” Occasionally through the film some of the writing and typing is superimposed into the scene.  This is a gimmick, but a gimmick I appreciated and thought worked perfectly with the style of the film.

Leonardo DiCaprio is superb as the great Jay Gatsby.  DiCaprio is one of those actors that his facial expressions alone could convey the proper tone and emotion without any dialogue at all.  He is impossibly charming and convincingly obsessed at the same time. His accent and lines seem a bit forced sometimes but I actually think it adds to his character and was probably written that way.  Gatsby has created a persona that did not originally come naturally, so he (the character) is in a constant state of acting. He is everything you expect and want in a young, eccentric, mysterious, millionaire and he makes sure to stay that way. I wish all the other acting kept up with DiCaprio’s. Not that they were bad, just underwhelming.  Carey Mulligan as Daisy didn’t really have any range.  Her emotion seemed to be the same almost the entire movie.  This may have also been on purpose though, as she is a wealthy, aloof housewife to an overbearing, bigoted, unfaithful husband (Tom, played by Joel Edgerton).  Perhaps she wasn’t supposed to have any real emotion left.

I have heard some suggestion that the movie is not critical enough of wealth and excess.  I’m not sure those people were watching the same movie I saw.  Not only do I find it to be one of the main themes of the movie, Tobey Maguire’s character flat out says a few lines towards the end of the movie that spells it out in case you missed it. “They were careless people… they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money…” Everything is exaggerated in Director Baz Luhrmann’s style, but that doesn’t take away from the characters’ obvious disregard for the poor, the treatment of the servants, the wastefulness, and the completely ridiculous way that the “Old Money” views and resents “New Money.”  Not everything has to be a Michael Moore movie to be effectively critical.  This movie I guess assumes we’re all smart enough to get it.

The whole thing was much slower in pace than I was expecting and the music didn’t play as much of a role as inferred by the trailers. The opening, where Nick begins to tell the story, is as advertised.  There are fast cuts, lots of music, and a very quick monologue. This would have been overwhelming for the whole film, but I could have used a little more of that style and definitely, I could have used more music.  I didn’t expect it to be (or want it to be for that matter) Moulin Rouge!.  It’s not a musical so of course it wouldn’t be, but with the way it was advertised, I did expect the music to have a prominent role.  It was really in the background and for the most part, barely noticeable.  For a lot of movies, a more subtle soundtrack would have been appreciated (cough, cough…Oblivion…cough), but with Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter working with Luhrmann on this for 2 years, and all the amazing artists that were featured, I wanted to hear it.  Seriously, just look at this soundtrack.

This was an overall enjoyable movie and I am glad to have seen it opening weekend.  Everything is beautiful, even the ugly stuff.  If they don’t get an Oscar nomination for costumes, I will be shocked.  I really wanted to LOVE it though, and I just didn’t. I probably went into it with my hopes too high, that maybe it would have breached into my top 5 movies, but it didn’t.  Again, DiCaprio is just perfect in this role, but even with that I have a sneaking suspicion that his Martin Scorsese movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, will be his major success of 2013.

As much as I love the fast paced Jay-Z centric trailer, this one, seems to be a better reflection of the how the movie actually is.


*Photo courtesy Warner Brothers Pictures

Jennie Stoddart (24 Posts)

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