What do you get when you combine the most famous writer of the Jazz Age with one of the most visually provocative directors in Hollywood? A film adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY that is just as roaring as the 1920s it was written in. For those of you who somehow managed to avoid taking high school English, GATSBY centers around a young professional named Nick Carraway who works in New York as a bonds salesman and has taken up residency in a small house on Long Island, not too far away from his blue blooded cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom Buchanan. The small house just happens to be next door to Jay Gatsby’s imposing mansion where ruckus parties are often held and are attended by some of the most prominent figures of New York society. While Nick tries to maneuver the rocky territory surrounding Daisy, Tom, Tom’s mistress Myrtle, and Jordan Baker, the golf pro Daisy is trying to set Nick up with, he attends one of Gatsby’s parties and quickly becomes both fascinated and entwined with the charismatic young man. Nick learns that Gatsby is formerly acquainted with Daisy and that he is eager to rekindle their association, which Nick agrees to help with. What follows is a whirlwind of love, lies, booze, and scandal that rocks the lives of everyone involved. Baz Lurhmann (AUSTRALIA) has only directed five feature length pictures, but his bright, mesmerizing visual style has made him one of the most well known directors in the world. He has co-written or adapted every one of his features and THE GREAT GATSBY is no exception, teaming once again with Craig Pearce (MOULIN ROUGE!) to adapt the novel for the screen. Lurhmann gives GATSBY a beautiful Art Deco opening that quietly draws you into the film, but once past the intro he delves into a fast paced, vibrant visual ocean and rarely comes up for air. This compelling style is perfect for capturing the alcohol fueled madness of the speak easies and parties of the roaring twenties, but it is also a good compliment to the more intimate moments of the film, after all, love is at the heart of THE GREAT GATSBY, and whatever else love might be, it is certainly vibrant. What makes Lurhmann’s style so delightful is that, despite its fast paced nature, it never fails to capture the story and essence of the scene; Gatsby is a thrilling visual rollercoaster ride that only slows down to prepare you for the next plunge. I do want to briefly touch on the musical selection in Gatsby since there seems to be a lot of hubbub about it. While Baz does use both modern and period music in the movie, I feel the juxtaposition exists to demonstrate that the way many people feel about the booming, edgy music of today is the same way the people of the twenties felt about the intense jazz and other new music if the time. I don’t listen to much of the kind of modern music that Lurhmann put in the movie and I didn’t find it distracting or bothersome. Lurhmann also combines his directorial prowess with his writing prowess to give the audience a more emotionally charged adaptation of Gatsby. “The Great Gatsby” is quite a short novel and doesn’t actually provide a great deal of dialogue between some of the most entwined characters in the book, giving those who want to adapt it to the screen some tall hurdles to clear. Lurhmann took the advise of Francis Ford Coppola (THE GODFATHER), who adapted the 1970’s version, and sought out inspiration from Fitzgerald’s other works to help create a filmable adaptation of the book. I feel that this approached plays out very well in this case, particularly setting up Nick’s narrative as him recounting the excesses of his past to a doctor while in rehab. I also loved that from time to time certain passages of text would be typed out on the screen, as if Nick is actually writing the story, this device is a creative way to keep the audience mindful of the narration without too many flashforwards to Nick in rehab. Given the source material, there is virtually no way to adapt “The Great Gatsby” for the screen without adding to it, so, unlike other novel adaptations, it is impossible to be absolutely pure to the source material, you have to take some liberties. In my opinion, Baz did a brilliant job with his adaptation by portraying Gatsby as a charming yet intense and obsessive man, going to excess with the portrayal of a time period that is renowned for being excessive, and fearlessly bringing out the intense emotions that often hide between the lines in the novel. While THE GREAT GATSBY is a visual masterpiece, it also boasts a compelling cast of exceedingly talented actors. Tobey Maguire (SPIDER MAN 3) plays Nick Carraway and his likable everyman sensibilities are well suited to the role, and as the movie continues we get to see a deeper, more diverse characterization from Maguire that demonstrates just how talented he can be when given the opportunity. Jay Gatsby is portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio (DJANGO UNCHAINED) and his performance reinforces my opinion that he can play anything. He does such a wonderful job of portraying an unflappable man of society that it is hard to believe this is the same man who was in THE DEPARTED. Carey Mulligan (DRIVE) fills the role of Daisy Buchanan, and I was honestly surprised to discover that I have seen other movies she has been in, because her performance as Daisy was powerful and emotional and yet she had never made an impression on me in anything else I have seen her in. Joel Edgerton (ZERO DARK THIRTY) gives an impressive performance as Tom Buchanan. He smugly smarms his way across the screen and easily elicits contempt from the audience with his silver spoon arrogance. Newcomer Elizabeth Debicki (A FEW BEST MEN) is entrancing as Jordan Baker. Her striking beauty and confident performance make her a scene stealer and I certainly hope this role gets her noticed, because I will be quite sad if I don’t see her in many more movies in the future. Isla Fisher (BACHELORETTE) plays Myrtle Wilson, and while the role isn’t all that substantial she nails the character and really brings her to life. Jason Clark (ZERO DARK THIRTY) fills the role of George Wilson, and while the role is a relatively small one, he brings an intensity and emotion to the character that is absolutely paramount to the movie. Lastly, I want to mention Amitabh Bachchan (ZAMAANAT) who plays Meyer Wolfsheim and in his single scene brings this character to life in a way that is both brilliant and completely different than anything I could have imagined from reading the book. THE GREAT GATSBY is a visual masterpiece that takes you on a tumultuous ride through the indulgent world of 1920s New York and Long Island. It is one of the most visually creative movies I have seen in a long time and it draws you in and mesmerizes you. If you want to see a stunning movie, are a fan of Baz Lurhmann, or are a fan of any of the actors in this movie, then head on out to a theatre and check it out, because it is more than worth the price of admission. Final Score: 9 out of 10
About The Author
I spend way too much time watching movies and tv, reading comics, and playing video games that I often don't put enough time into my writing. So I figured I would start writing fun reviews and news stories to help keep my skills sharp. I love to write, have collected comics since I was eight, love anime and anime conventions, and am into most things people nerd out over.
August 25, 2014
December 13, 2011
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