{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Great Gatsby - Movie Review


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2 stars

“That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” So articulates the charmingly demure socialite Daisy Buchanan from the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, The Great Gatsby. As characterized by Fitzgerald, she had “the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.”

Yet, in the frames of Baz Luhrmann’s noisy yet lifeless adaptation, Daisy’s (Carrey Mulligan) charm and eloquence are replaced by a cool disinterest. In fact, everything the guy touches turns to stone as he captures none of the novel’s impassioned prose nor any of its mysterious allure. Instead, the film just lies there, like us, waiting for something to happen.

But with no fewer than four previous big screen adaptations and half as many made-for-TV offerings, each equally poor, the failure of any of them to even slightly approach the book’s significance, likely speaks greater to the author’s work than to any filmmaker’s ineptitude. Maybe, just maybe, Fitzgerald’s greatest achievement with his The Great Gatsby is having written a book so rich and so full of life and eloquent prose, that it simply can’t be given proper attention on film.

But let’s stick to the topic at hand: Luhrmann’s bomb.

Those familiar with the story will be pleased to know that Luhrmann’s story (co-written with Craig Pearce) fairly closely follows that of the novel, save for an awkward framing device, the idea taken from the notes of Fitzgerald’s final, unfinished work, that has Nick Caraway (Tobey Maguire) confessing a tragedy he had experienced to a doctor and then starting to write the story which eventually becomes the novel.

The tale follows would-be writer Nick Carraway as he arrives in 1922 New York City, a place of loosening morals, law-breaking bootleggers, and hipster jazz kings. Following his American dream, Nick settles down in a tiny timber cottage on Long Island’s West Egg, the nouveau riche part of town, and unwittingly, right next door to the mysterious Mr. Gatsby and across the bay from his cousin Daisy Buchanan, the object of Gatsby’s affection. On the other side of the bay, Gatsby can see the green glow of Daisy’s dock light, a signal that both warns and attracts.

We learn that while Gatsby was off fighting in The Great War, then later, making his millions, it seems Daisy was wandering about before eventually marrying Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a bullying, destructive, old-money guy who, himself, carries on an affair with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), a smoldering vamp from the other side of the tracks.

Gatsby stares across the bay, dreaming of what could have been, but more importantly what he hopes to be once again.

Nick is eventually drawn into Gatsby’s world, first to a party, and then, from there, into doing Gatsby the favor of inviting Daisy over for tea so that Gatsby can “just happen” to drop by. Stuck between the two by his naive allegiance to both, Nick emerges on the other side, a changed man, terribly affected by the world and the tragedy that lies ahead.

Fitzgerald’s story has plenty of soap-operatic drama, and is never short of flavorful character or vibrant joie de vivre. Yet, surprisingly, this is precisely where Luhrmann stumbles the most. Despite his signature flair for the flashy, and the fact that he does indeed effectively capture the glitz and glamour of the period, he seems content merely filming the book’s pages rather than bringing its story to life. As a result, it’s all flash with no bang. None of the characters feels real, nor do we give a hoot about a single one. DiCaprio, as Gatsby, nearly breaks through Luhrmann’s veil of indifference with his inspiring charm and penchant for calling everyone “old sport.” But that’s more likely due to the legendary image of the mysterious man we’ve come to know from the novel more than anything DiCaprio does on screen. At least he didn’t ruin the character.

And one more thing, there’s absolutely no reason to pay the up-charge to watch the film in 3D. The effect adds nothing to the experience, and in fact, is almost totally neutralized by Luhrmann’s incessant close-ups and lack of depth-of-field. The effect feels like an add-on. That’s because it was. Originally due to hit theaters last Christmas, its release was delayed until early May, reportedly while Lurhmann perfected the 3D effects. The Great Gatsby is simply not a very good movie, with or without 3D.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Great Gatsby - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.
143 mins.
: Baz Luhrmann
: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce
Leonardo DiCaprio; Tobey Maguire; Carrey Mulligan; Joel Edgerton; Isla Fisher
: Drama
Can't repeat the past? ...of course you can!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Mr. Gatsby, I'd like to know. Exactly who are you, anyhow?"
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date: May 10, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby follows would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

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{2jtab: Trailer}