84 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2013
As a fan of the book as well as of DeCaprio's, this is undeniably the Gatsby adaptation I've been waiting for.
First, the set: Much attention is paid to small but important details, such as the glowing green light at the dock and the faded oculist's sign. The splendor of Gatsby's mansion is recreated exquisitely, and the "valley of ashes" doesn't disappoint in its ghastly wasteland.
Second, Luhrmann doesn't depart from the story too much, though I think there was a lot more discourse between Gatsby and Daisy than I remember reading in the book. He may have changed some of the dialogue, but he does stay unflinchingly true to the spirit of the book and its morals, which I think is vastly more important.
Third, the casting was perfect, and probably the most telling detail about Luhrmann's good judgment in making this film- DeCaprio is the embodiment of Gatsby--the smile, the charm, the mannerisms are all what one reading the book would expect him to be like. Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway was also a great pick -- he has the 'outsider' qualities required for the role of the narrator. Debicki as Jordan Baker was also very well-cast; she had the aloof coolness and the slightly-bored gaze I pictured when I read the novel. Daisy, by far, was the most crucial casting in my opinion, because if played too obnoxiously and over-the-top, the whole story falls flat. However, Carey Mulligan makes her flighty and airy but also lets her show real emotion. In a way, though her character does horrible things in the movie, you can't help but feel that she isn't completely devoid of thought/emotion. And of course, her husband Tom, makes the antagonist as a macho-man whose emotions occasionally seep through to the surface.
Honestly, with all the good things this movie had going for it, the anachronistic music surprisingly didn't bother me one bit. It was also clever how jazz motifs were mixed in with hip-hop and rap beats, somehow making the sound swirl into an unidentifiable, chaotic experience.
Overall, this was a phenomenal adaptation and definitely a must for any Gatsby fan.
136 of 161 people found the following review helpful
No one can ever accuse Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann of playing it safe! Subtlety and restraint are not qualities that the director embraces. In fact, his motto appears to be "the bigger, the better." His previous pictures (both good and bad) are chaotic, frantic, excessive and over-the-top in every way imaginable. I don't necessarily mean that as an insult. I enjoyed both "Strictly Ballroom" (a lot) and the anachronistic "Romeo + Juliet." But it was "Moulin Rouge" that really stole my heart. I appreciate this musical mash-up so much because it simply shouldn't work. It's too much, everything about it. Yet for all its ADD attitude, it's a dazzlingly original piece of work with real heart and passion. It was my favorite film of 2001, while his follow-up "Australia" was my biggest disappointment of 2008. Expectations were high when Luhrmann announced a re-imagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." The prior film interpretation, with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, was a lavish production that never fully connected with me on an emotional level. It was faithful enough, to be sure, it just lacked a bit of life.
Well LIFE (with a capital LIFE) is something that Luhrmann's version doesn't lack. For literary purists, this spectacle may not resemble Fitzgerald's classic in anything but basic plotting. In many ways, this is NOT Fitzgerald's "Gatsby." Instead, this is unquestionably Luhrmann's creation. And for that, you will likely love the movie or hate it. While I didn't think it was a perfect film, I ended up embracing it and loving it. If nothing else, it is not like any other project you'll see in movie theaters in 2013. In this day of homogenized sequels and cookie cutter copies, this experience explodes from the screen as a true original. The use of fantastic 3-D filming, the opulence in set and costume design, the visual trickery of the special effects, the massive cast (the party scenes alone seem populated by thousands) and the effectively anachronistic soundtrack all create a distinctly unique impression. The sheer magnitude of the production is almost overwhelming! To keep up with it all, you might just feel exhausted after watching "The Great Gatsby."
The story, as I mentioned, stays largely intact from the source material. Recounted from the modest perspective of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), an unlikely tale of friendship, mystery and tragic love unfolds at a frantic pace. While it is dizzying to begin with, just settle in and things calm down as the movie progresses. This is a common element to Luhrmann endeavors, it takes a while for the manic energy to subside. Taking a small cabin next to the palatial Gatsby estate, Carraway has a strong curiosity about the enigmatic Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). When he gets a personal invitation to a gala, it seems that the great man reciprocates this interest with his new neighbor. Carraway is seduced into a new world of luxury and excess. His wealthy cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) lives across the bay with her volatile husband (Joel Edgerton) and Gatsby seems especially fascinated by her as well. Is he just using Nick to connect with Daisy? What exactly does he want?
As much as anything, this iteration of "The Great Gatsby" plays up the mystery elements of the story. The secrets of the past are slow to surface, but they are powerful and vivid when they do. When played for drama and even tragedy, the movie does strike an strong emotional chord. The tone, however, throughout is somewhat scatttershot. An early meeting between Gatsby and Daisy, for example, is played as awkward comedy and feels decidedly less than real. But I still loved the movie. DiCaprio is especially strong as Gatsby. Maguire is also good, if a little old to be so wide-eyed and innocent. But for me, the star of the production is the production itself. Absolutely spellbinding from a visual perspective, I won't soon forget this "Gatsby!" I'd recommend the 3-D version as this was intended to be seen in that format (it wasn't converted after the fact to cash in like most other movies). Maybe not for everyone, Luhrmann took a classic American novel and developed one of 2013's most unique films. KGHarris, 6/13.
119 of 147 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2013
Though this is supposed to be a product rating and not a movie review, I wanted to comment on Matthew's review titled "Old Sport." as a separate review because commenting on his post would merit less views, and I don't like misconceptions.
So yeah, rap probably wasn't the music Fitzgerald had in mind for Jay Gatsby's parties, but that doesn't mean that kids in school studying the novel this movie is based on won't find this movie helpful. In fact, it might be more helpful than any movie adaptation made before it, for this reason: it is largely contemporary. I think it sticks to the story quite well. It is only told differently - that is, it doesn't attempt to stiffly adhere to some notion of antiquity. It tells the story in a way people today, and probably especially those the adolescent age of students studying the book in school, will understand. Maybe jazz in the 20's evoked a feeling different from what it evokes now. And so the soundtrack used in the film expresses what the novel means (while still playing along with the Jazz Age theme, entertainingly) - lavish, badass partying, scandalous forbidden love, intense hope, for example - and isn't that what's important?
I think watching this movie will enhance the understanding of anyone who reads the novel.
Otherwise, whether you are studying the novel, reading it for pleasure, or not reading it at all, this is a great movie worth watching. Superb acting, gorgeous costumes for each body that appears, music that makes an impact, and brilliant retelling of a timeless story.
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2014
Perhaps because I grew up on Long Island Sound in Connecticut, and F. Scott Fitzgerald penned his literary masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby” in my home town, it is my favorite work of American literature. I thought the 1970’s movie version of the film was OK but felt Mia Farrow was miscast as Daisy. From the reviews of the 2013 adaption I knew it was largely a flop but wanted to see for myself what a contemporary director might turn out.
From the get-go with it’s anachronistic hip-hop musical score by Jay Z, Baz Luhrmann, proceeds to lay waste to this classic story. I should have known from seeing the stomach churning trailers for “Moulin Rouge” that this would be more of the same. Garish, over the top, over produced, and under edited Lurhrmann’s Gatsby is clearly aimed at a nation of people who won’t read anything longer than 140 characters, and never read the book. Fitzgerald’s book relies on expert mastery of the language and is full of subtle imagery and intelligent dialog; you’ll get none of that here but snippets. The vehicle of using poorly cast Toby Maguire’s character Nick reliving the tragic events by way of a therapeutic journal writing exercise at an alcohol rehab clinic is tiresome.
CGI for a film such as this should be unnecessary but for whatever reason it’s used extensively and to poor effect. The wardrobe budget would feed a third world country for a year. Gatsby’s walking stick and oversized pinky ring are creations of this film, he was a bootlegger, but not a pimp. His car in the novel is described as being a “cream yellow with a green leather interior”, not this screaming yellow nightmare that he drives like he stole it. Every scene is a study in excess and overly choreographed.
Casting is everything after the screenplay and no one fits their role well in Luhrmann’s interpretation. Leonardo DiCaprio looks uncomfortable in this part, maybe because he lacks the background to play such a rags-to-riches fellow who is full of hope and haunted by his past? All I know is that using the affectation “old sport” every other line doesn’t make him Gatsby. JG certainly says that phrase in the book but not to the extent Leo does and it wears thin very quickly.
I never heard of Carey Mulligan and while at least in terms of appearance she’s an improvement on Mia Farrow. Here is a character who is supposed to be so compelling that she drives our protagonist to expend vast sums of money and make grand gestures all with the aim of winning her favor and winding back the clock to when they were first together. Off hand I can’t think of an actress who could convey that beauty and desirability but it’s not Ms. Mulligan.
Joel Edgerton didn’t seem physically big enough for the role of the brutish Tom Buchanan (DiCaprio’s an inch taller according ti IMDB). Jordan Baker’s part in the story was watered down and forgettable while Isla Fischer does a decent job with what little she gets to do as Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s mistress.
Fans of the novel will mostly be irritated at the details that are wrong. For example they go through the trouble of pointing out Wolfscheim’s tie pin which is made from a human molar, but it’s actually his cufflinks- why change this? Bottom line, purists who cherish F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work should avoid Lurhmann’s tedious flick.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2013
The remake of Gatsby is visually stunning. The Tiffany jewelry, chandeliers, blowing white curtains and winding staircase are the stuff of imagination. The twenties at their peak. The acting however, and the screenplay failed to fulfill this magnificent book. De Caprio is not Redford; for the better part of the movie he sounds as though he is trying to speak like a Kennedy. He finally comes into the character in the last scenes, and in those, is really good. Toby McGuire is vacant; without the writing tool used in the movie he has no personality at all. Carey Mulligan is a picture of Daisy; the depth of character and beginnings of her madness are not there. She never has those 'Zelda' moments which gave meaning to her part in the story. The best character in this version is Jordan; Isla Fischer is beautiful and conveys her character, the times, everything with only few words; in her facial expression and movement there is a true depth that draws attention. Found myself wanting to hear more from her. The story is lost. There is no mention or appearance of Daisy's child at all until the last; one is left wondering where she came from and when, unless you know the book. The best part of the screenplay is the use of Fitzgerald's amazing closing lines and the green light...... Because I love the book, I liked the movie; if Redford, Farrow, and even Edward Hermann playing the twenties era piano were in this production it would be amazing! Only a 'like' for content. An exceptional visual for those who love the twenties.
48 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2013
...I would not have watched this movie. Personally the original movie, with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford, was qualitatively better. If one was to ask an older generation, I am sure that the original would prove to be quantitatively better as well. I did not care for most of the music in the film, though a couple of the renditions were okay. Also, as a fan of the book, there was a particular dialogue that made the book and the original movie that was critically altered in this film, "rich girls don't marry poor boys" (Daisy to Gatsby in the book and in the 1974 film). In the new film this line was muttered by an insignificant character to Carroway in reference to his crush on Ms. Jordan Baker. Also, the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy is a bit skewed. In all, I gave the film three stars because of the things mentioned above and because the direction was not stellar, nor was the cinematography (which was jerky and disorienting at times). As a long time fan of Leo DiCaprio, I hate to give a film he stars in a less than stellar review. I would urge everyone who has not read the book or seen the 1974 film to do so and judge for yourself. As a warning to students looking for an easy way out...read the book!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2013
Frenetic energy gushed everywhere in this film, creating such a motion sickness that I'm surprised they didn't supply barf bags to the people in the audience. And sadly, some of the imagery was indeed clever and could have worked if it had been used sparingly and as a thematic spice, but instead it drenched the film in a stylized vomit that obscured the entire point of the story. In short, the signal to noise ratio in the movie may make your head explode. Although Luhrmann presents a fair amount of the story from the novel, it's like reading the Cliff Notes version. The characters act out famous scenes, recite memorable lines, but in the end it's all devoid of meaning. I felt sorry for Leonardo and Carey who were fine actors desperately seeking an equally fine director -- at least a director who understood the definition of "subtlety."
31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
The Great Gatsby, and indeed any film by director Baz Luhrmann, is a love-it or hate-it experience. He took Shakespeare's revered tale of Romeo and Juliet, updated it to present day Miami, added six-shooters, explosions, and neon lights, but kept the source material's vibrant heart. But Romeo + Juliet, like Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge worked. Like The Great Gatsby, they worked because they had colour, vibrant energy, an excellent cast, and Baz's typical spirit and OTT action ingrained in them.
They're not perfect. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is not just the possible holder of the mythical title "Great American Novel", but one of the finest works of fiction period. A haunting, caustic look at wealth, money, decadence, love, and the American Dream, The Great Gatsby, in it's 50,000 words, manages to be both vividly written, hauntingly affecting, and timelessly relevant. Go on and read it. Your English teacher was right.
But how does it translate to film? Not seamlessly. I still have NO idea why it was released in 3D. This decision seems ultimately misguided; how many novels written in the Twenties are going to be released in the Third Dimension? The Catcher in the Rye? The Beyoncé and Jay-Z and will.i.am black rap may seem questionable to purists, and certainly jarred a large portion of the audience I watched the film with. And do we really need CGI sets and zooming shoots and kinetic driving scenes in a film about excess in the Jazz Age? One of my big gripes with the film is with the (otherwise) emotional scene in the garden between Daisy and Gatsby. We should be swept up in their tale of doomed love, and in the phenomenal acting, but whatisthat? GREEN SCREEN. Obvious, fake GREEN screen in a scene in the garden. Cheap, or was it part of Baz Luhrmann's effect?
Endless debate can be sparked on these topics. The real issue for me is harder to pin down. The film...the performances...seemed so...HOLLOW. Like it was all colour and light and splendour on the outside, but inside it was empty and hollow and lifeless. Carrie Mulligan in particular felt so empty-headed and vapid.
Or was this all intentional? Was Mulligan's performance intended to represent that selfsame attribute of Daisy; empty-headed, filled with faux-girlish innocence that revealed a sad, tortured girl inside? Did the emptiness of The Great Gatsby represent the hollowness of the American Dream that Nick Carraway finds so evident? Does the vapidity of the characters Gatsby and Tom and Daisy reflect the vapidity and fickleness that our narrator, Nick Carraway uncovers? I don't rightly know...
But the movie wasn't terrible. The Great Gatsby has a lot of things going for it.
The first half of the film has almost palpable energy. The Jazz Age was a terrific time to be alive, and Luhrmann shows us the wondrous new land of New York according to the relatively innocent Nick Carraway; cheap booze, flappers, the Charleston, riotous parties, confetti, fireworks, Jazz, big cars, grand castles, mysterious people, and lots and lots of money. In short, this is decadence and excess to the full.
A pity then, that it seems to lose this vigour in the second half. Again, maybe this is intentional and it's all me. The tonal shift is abrupt - from happy to sad - but the film works on mostly thanks to it's talented cast.
Leonardo DiCaprio has come far from his Titanic/Romeo + Juliet days; no longer is he the pretty boy and teenage heart-throb. This is an incredibly versatile, charismatic, talented, and potentially brilliant actor at the top of his game. Reading the book, it is almost impossible to imagine how Gatsby could be realized onscreen, so dashing and larger-than-life was he. But DiCaprio makes it happen. He is suave, charismatic, sophisticated, sympathetic, mysterious, and charming. He is also a twisted, heartbroken, often deluded and complex soul. His multi-faceted performance is another star in his crown, which includes Blood Diamond, The Departed, Django Unchained, and hopefully many more to come. We're sorry for underestimating you, Leo.
Tobey Maguire is a most underrated actor, and I was sorry that I haven't seen more of him. His Nick Carraway was spot. on! Maguire captures the wide-eyed sensibility, innocence, and strong moral compass and decency of the character; not in a showy way, but in a sincere performance, becoming the focus of the audience's sympathies - Nick, who at times seems the most sane man in New York.
Carrie Mulligan is a rising and incredibly talented young star. Right from the get-go, her Daisy Fay is a standout performance. She captures perfectly the Daisy from Fitzgerald's book; a sincere smile, girlish innocence, and "a voice like money". Her character is not always likeable, but her portrayal is subtle and should please purists of the book. I had doubts about Joel Edgerton as the odious Tom, but his performance was suitably animated and repelling as the boisterous and brash Tom Buchanan. Jason Clarke,Isla Fisher, and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki give standout performances in the supporting casts, whose characters are given new life in the hands of talented thespians.
I give an abnormal amount of praise to Luhrmann's talented cast, because that is what impressed me most with the film. I liked the colour that assaulted the senses, the energy almost pulsing through the films veins, the colorful and diverse score (Lana del Rey's Young and Beautiful is particularly haunting), and the subtly brilliant performances from the cast.
The Great Gatsby left me feeling torn however. The enormous amounts of CGI and crane shots, coupled with the unnecessary 3D and the rap make this into a love-it or hate-it experience. I fall somewhere in between. I liked the movie. The Great Gatsby is like Tom Buchanan's riotous party early on in the film; new, original, colourful, exciting, but also hollow, misguided, and something that many people may want to stay away from.
My rating? Four Eyes of T.J. Eckleburg out of five.
P.S. Don't take my word for it! See it for yourself, then come back and write a comment on how you liked it. If this review was helpful to you, give it a like!
P.P.S The original, and still the best. Read the book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2014
Perhaps it is because the film does not capture Fitzgerald's setting, and the subtle inferences the novel hints at, and instead the filmmakers spoon feed the audience, and I find that disappointing. I feel the morphing between the true Jazz Age and the contemporary Rap and Beat age feels more like a science fiction depiction of The Hunger Games with freakish characters who are not quite human, but maybe that was the intention.
This coupled with the performances - I was never convinced that Gatsby and Daisy were a believable couple. I much prefer Robert Redford and Mia Farrow's performances.
68 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2013
CGI is becoming the ruin of serious films. Its over-use is leading to films that ever more cartoonish with overblown designs, garish colors and visuals that are notable for their utter excess. This film, in my opinion, takes things to a whole new level of ugly. Its a visually loud film with no real sense of style to speak of. Like most CGI, its so poorly done that it screams obvious fake at least to me. The film has all the visual style of Joel Schumaker's 1997 "Batman and Robin" and that is not a complement. Some have complained about the music not being appropriate. I'm not sure about that. If anything, they didn't go far enough with the music. Only a disco soundtrack straight out of the 1970s would have been appropriate.
Worse yet is the script which isn't very respectful of the novel. They invented a new framing sequence which was completely unnecessary. They seemed desperate to make Daisy Buchanan a good and likeable character which she should not be. What I liked the least was the removal of Gatsby's father from the story. The father showing up to the funeral is, in my opinion, one of the great moments in the entire book.
Many of the other key moments in the story are simply overwhelmed by the visuals and noise. The meeting in the city with Meyer Wolfshiem falls flat as a scene because there is so much "junk" going on for the sake of going on in the background. They keep going back to a trumpet player on a fire escape for no particular reason.
As far as casting, Leonardo DiCaprio works out as the main character far better than I would have expected. He captures the essense of being a fake very well. Joel Edgerton doesn't work as Tom Buchanan at all. They needed someone who could do a credible WASPy rich hypocrite and that is just not him. Elizabeth Debicki is good, but her character is not given much of anything to do. Amitabh Bachchan was a misfire in that someone seems to have told him to play the part as a vampire. The faults of "Daisy" are faults in the construction of the script. Tobey Maguire does a reasonable job, but nothing special.
In some sense, many of the flaws of the film are really simply expressions of Baz Luhrmann's style. But where Moulin Rouge seemed in step with excess of the times when it was released, Gatsby seems completely out of touch.
In terms of the music, Luhrmann's comments sort of speak for themselves:
"The question for me in approaching Gatsby was how to elicit from our audience the same level of excitement and pop cultural immediacy toward the world that Fitzgerald did for his audience? And in our age, the energy of jazz is caught in the energy of hip-hop."
The problem of course is that where they went for that excitement, energy and pop cultural immediacy to a couple people who no longer have ANY of those things: Jay Z and Beyonce. They found "pop culture immediacy" in established acts like Fergie, U2, Bryan Ferry and Amy Winehouse among others. The idea of using high-energy modern music was not a bad one, but they didn't carry it through. They went for celebrity names and a style of music that was low energy.
People who like the overblown style of Baz Luhrmann and who are not very familar with the novel might enjoy this. But for me, it was just a pointless display of excess.