The Great Gatsby Review
by Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Tobey Maguire (Spiderman) and Carey Mulligan (Drive)
I have never read The Great Gatsby nor watched the original film. That, old sport, means a clean slate and an un-biased opinion (some may say an ill informed opinion but you needn’t bother your mind with such nonsense). For those of you that have experienced none of the above; Gatsby is about a mysterious man named Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) who for unknown reasons throws insanely lavish parties that would make even Kanye West blush. When Nick Carraway (Maguire), a far from rich ex-writer moves in next door he is strangely befriended by Gatsby who has a grand request of him involving a love from the past. What follows is a tragic yet epic story of obsession, infidelity and greed from the top of the world centered around an intoxicating woman named Daisy (Mulligan).
Gatsby starts off with a bang, jumping from one grandiose landscape to the next. Every frame of the film is packed with an impressively stylish gleam that makes even the slow moments worth watching. From the wide shots of the city to the intimate scenes inside Gatsby’s parties, every inch of the film is awe inspiring. It somehow maintains a smooth and sleek look as it barrages us with special effects and surreal settings. The 3D effect adds several layers of depth to an already ambitious scenery and is definitely worth the ticket price.
The acting comes second to the spectacle of Gatsby, but in a film this robust that doesn’t mean a thing. DiCaprio, as Gatsby, has the ability to go from expressing deep feelings without saying a word to being openly infuriated and on the brink of insanity in an instant. He goes from mysterious to vulnerably honest several times with each emotion or front his character puts on. DiCaprio makes it work. Each character has their own secret intentions at one point or another and the actors do a great job not letting us in on their secrets until the appropriate time. Across the board the performances in Gatsby are spot on. Maguire is solid and fits the role he was chosen for well. Mulligan is enchanting enough to lead us in whatever direction her character wants us to go. Joel Edgerton is impressive as ever as Daisy’s brash husband Tom Buchanan and truly rivals DiCaprio at moments. The two are best when on screen together and in several intense scenes are able to create the kind of combustible atmosphere worth sitting up for.
The first act in Gatsby features the temptations of the lifestyles lived by Gatsby and those around him and are accompanied with an oddly fitting soundtrack of modern hip hop. This works surprisingly well and adds another layer of originality and style to a film already brimming with interest. The parties rage and the self indulgence mounts making for a pretty fun time for the audience. As things ultimately move into more serious territory and the characters intentions are fleshed out Gatsby loses a bit of its wonder. The fast pace seems to drop to a dark crawl and brings the film back down to earth a little too soon. The writing still is quite impassioned and though we find ourselves missing the extravagance; eventually the character development takes hold and brings us back in.
As the rollercoaster comes to a close in the films final act there is a sense that what is happening should feel more important than it does. Almost as if callous from the multiple character twists that came before, the emotion that seems so prevalent has suddenly gone missing. Gatsby still does get the job. Wowing us with visual ambition and intense character interaction, the polished anarchy of Gatsby is a memorable movie experience that may not move you emotionally but it will entertain you endlessly.