After loathing every single second of Moulin Rouge, I didn’t have high hopes for The Great Gatsby. I got the sneaky suspicion that Luhrmann would be applying the same inexorable audiovisual slurry he concocted for his 2001 musical to his two hour and twenty minute adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s much loved novel. I’m pleased to announce, however, that I really enjoyed Gatsby, and at its finest moments, the film is the equal of Romeo + Juliet.
Since I was forced to read the book and see the Robert Redford film in school, ‘The Great Gatsby’ isn’t a tale I remember fondly. I didn’t dislike it, per se, but I’ve never felt the need to revisit the story. It’s entirely possible that anyone who holds the book up as ‘the great American novel’ will have trouble with this adaptation, and perhaps any adaptation of it. It’s true that Our Baz swings metaphors about with reckless abandon, and sometimes the pomp outweighs the heart of his films, but here his directorial work really shone.
It’s the quiet moments that really impress and, surprisingly, the film is filled with them. There’s all the glitz and glamour that’s a prerequisite for Luhrmann, sure, but the last hour of the film is full of sombre, touching and haunting moments. DiCaprio is in fine form as Gatsby. He gets the mix of confidence and insecurity just right, and if nothing else, it’s good to see him get some scenes where he’s happy (something that rarely seems to occur in his roles of late). His first scenes together with Carey Mulligan as Daisy are the best in the film. Mulligan is of course also fantastic.
Seeing Tobey Maguire in a lead role – for me, the first since Spider-Man 3, actually – is great, and he carries the film as Nick Carraway. His narration perfectly suits the film also. Joel Edgerton shows just how versatile he can be in the role of Tom Buchanan – almost unrecognisable without his standard beard – and there is a whole host of other Aussie actors in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles.
Those of you terrified at the notion that Jay-Z was contributing to the soundtrack needn’t worry. Sure, his rapping pops up a couple of times, along with some anachronistic covers of Beyoncé and the like, but it never overshadows the film. The same could be said about the visual effects. Aside from half a dozen huge interiors, a lot of this film was made on a computer, though it never gets in the way of the storytelling (barring a couple of dodgy greenscreen moments). The 3D even worked rather well, something you don’t often hear me say.
The Great Gatsby boasts some pitch perfect direction from Luhrmann and great performances from the four central stars. Those of you who still have fond memories of Romeo + Juliet should find this film to be right down your alley.Rating: