The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the classic American novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald bursts at the seams with a highly stylized and romanticized 3D vision of the roaring twenties. Hyper edited, and excessively designed, the visual splendor and extravagance on display could compete with the best of Bollywood’s dramatic spectacles.

Set in 1922 Manhattan, an aspiring writer, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), is invited one day by a dashing young millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), living in a mansion next door to his rundown bungalow, to one of his lavish parties for the wealthy high society types.  

The movie jumps off the screen like explosive fireworks demanding to be awed at, while throwing everything it can at you. Visually it’s almost like watching a Fast and Furious film, with digitally animated sequences that gives the film a comic book look and style.

Before going off to the Great War, a young soldier falls in love with the daughter from a wealthy family. When he disappears after the war, she is married to a rich business man, but the boy never forgot the first love of his youth. Feeling financially inadequate and unworthy of her love, he obsessively sets out to make himself into a successful tycoon. 

There’s a wild energy to the film that’s beautifully represented in a musical Jazz sequence set against Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue depicting the decadent New York City night life in the 1920s that owes its inspiration to a similar musical sequence in Disney’s Fantasia 2000.

The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, the aspiring writer who despite the rumors about Gatsby’s past and current reputation, reserves any judgments while he becomes a close confidant to his eccentric neighbor. 

Known for being grandiose and epic, director Baz Luhrmann has given the story a modern feel with a contemporary soundtrack as he did with his other extravagant romantic musical Moulin Rouge (2001), and it seems to work beautifully to establish the liberal sexual ethics of the time.

When Gatsby finally feels the time is right to reveal himself to his love Daisy (Carey Mulligan), it’s a hilariously awkward moment but they eventually rekindle their past romance. However, this is a cautionary tale of how the wealthy establishment will not part easily with their possessions and their superficial way of life.

Again, the main complaint by critics seems to be that there's too much emphasis on style and not enough substance, but I found it to be a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable visual spectacle blended with a classic story. Aimed more at a young adult audience who will perhaps be studying the novel in school as part of their curriculum as I did when I read it in school; it’s designed to engage the modern sensibilities of a hip new audience. 

The Great Gatsby is a wonderful kinetic kaleidoscope of colorful images that will keep you mesmerized and may hopefully even inspire one to read the classic book on which it’s based.



Darlene Nemeth said...

People watch movies for different reasons. I don't always need a movie to have a fantastic story or characters. A simple story with great visual interest is all I sometimes need.

Krystyna Lagowski said...

Saw this and adored it. Such a sumptuous, gorgeous feast for the eyes. Acting was great, too - loved how Leonardo showed the soft, nervous side of Gatsby with nuance. Agreed that too many are short-changing this because it is Baz and because it is so beautiful to look at. Inspired for Baz to include JayZ on the sound-track - gave the film the edge it needed to stay relevant.

Susan Cooper said...

Like many, I've read the book and loved it. I've seen the older movie versions and i'm looking forward to seeing this one and how they were able to capture the true nature of the story.

I do understand it is amazingly visual experience. I'll let you know what I think when I finally see it. :-)

MK Slagel said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I am really looking forward to it. The Great Gatsby has always been one of my favorite books so I am rereading it quickly before I see it.

JP said...

Thanks Susan, I'll look forward to hearing what you thought of the film.

I think it might be fun to read the book after seeing this film, so you have the visual reference while reading.