The Great Gatsby – 4 out of 5
It’s confession time…
I’ve never actually read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel. Even in high school, I never took a literature course that required me to read it and, despite it being herald as a classic, I never took it upon myself to read it on my own time (and I really don’t have an excuse for why). However, I found myself enjoying this adaptation so much, I may take the time to actually give the book a shot.
|He's boyishly handsome and not even acknowledging the fireworks behind him...|
he must be cool!
If you are one of those who have actually read the film or seen the book, you already know the story but, if you’re like me (you’re totally awesome, by the way), the film centers on a young, idealistic man named Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who comes to the big city to make a life for himself and make some big money dreams come true. He soon learns of the existence of his neighbor, a mysterious man who throws incredibly lavish parties that words are barely able to scratch the surface when attempting to describe them and who goes by the name of Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Eventually, Carraway and Gatsby strike up a friendship and Gatsby seeks the aid of Carraway in order to help him win back his lost love; Daisy Buchanan (Cary Mulligan). Problem with this is Daisy is married to the wealthy Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and he, like Gatsby, is too self-absorbed to give up his wife (they are both fans of having their cake and eating it right after they put as many diamonds on it as they can). Now Tom is out to find out who this mysterious Gatsby really is while Carraway learns that rich people can be…well…kind of a bunch of dicks.
|Some people see this party and think, "That looks awesome."|
I see this party and I think, "Who is going to clean all that shit up?"
I had my reservations on this one when it was coming to the theaters for a few reasons. Number One) I never read the book, Number Two) It looks like it was all flash and style with no real heart to it, and Number Three) Why the hell was it made in 3D?!? So, I passed on seeing it in the theaters and decided to wait this one out. While I admit the film puts more of an emphasis on flashy looking visuals, music that doesn’t fit with the era and pretty scenery than anything else, the film was actually easy to get behind thanks to some really incredible performances.
|Wait a second...is this 1920s era New York or Wonderland?|
When I first started to watch it, I was really distracted from the story due to director Baz Luhrmann’s (Romeo + Juliet) emphasis on striking visuals and music. While I really enjoyed the visual style (yes, I was enthralled with the bright, shiny look of the film), I had a really hard time getting to know and appreciate the characters in the story. Not to mention the music kept throwing me off as suddenly Jay-Z would appear in the soundtrack and, I’m no expert on the roaring 20s, but I don’t think Hova, the God-MC, was actually performing then.
While the look is just breathtaking and awesome to take in, I felt it was robbing me of the story that Fitzgerald crafted and I thought that this movie was going to be all about dazzling its audience with great CG effects and slick editing. However, as I started to become accustomed to the unique visual style of the film and started to really see the story poke out from behind all the glorious decadence and annoying overabundance (gee, isn’t that what Fitzgerald was going for? Showing how full of themselves rich people were? Well played, Luhrmann!)—once I got behind all the pretty things clogging up the shots and started to actually see the story, I quickly got sucked into the film.
|Somewhere in this shot is a fun-loving 20s hobo jerking off in an alley.|
While the story is interesting and easy to become enthralled in, the thing that I got behind this movie so quickly with was the outrageously amazing performances. Leo is great as Gatsby and really made the character come to life. When you first meet him, DiCaprio wins you with his charm and you think Gatsby is a mysterious but fun character you want to be around…until you see that he’s just a dick like most rich people who only care about themselves and ownership over whatever they can get their hands on…even if it’s ownership of someone’s heart. As a viewer, you get to experience this transition and revelation through the character of Nick Carraway and Tobey Maguire did a tremendous job of showing the disillusion that Carraway felt once he sees the bright lights and glitter that is the sweet life are there to just hide the bitterness and nasty aftertaste that actually comes with the finer things. Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of Maguire (but he sure proved how he could cry by sobbing the entire running length of all three Spider-Man movies) but, for the most part, he really showed some tremendous ability in this film.
|The longer you stare at this photo the funnier it becomes.|
However, both DiCaprio and Maguire had to take a backseat to the man who, I felt, stole the film. Joel Edgerton was fantastic beyond words as the former sports legend turned rich man Tom Buchanan. Without so much as raising his voice, he showed an intensity that boiled underneath his hair cream and a mustache that would almost automatically create a restraining order that keeps a man away from schools and playgrounds if he sported one today (and yes, hipsters would totally, and ironically, rock that ‘stache). Every scene he was in was like watching art being created before you and the way Luhrmann would shoot him with dynamic camera work only added to the effect of how truly amazing Edgerton was in this film. He was a presence and a half in this movie. Then you have the part where DiCaprio and Edgerton share an amazing scene together where the truth of who Gatsby is and his intentions with Buchanan’s wife are revealed and it is so amazing to witness that I will be shocked that if the collision of such talent didn’t create its own solar system somewhere out in our vast universe.
|Seriously, that mustache is grown with its own sex offender registry but Edgerton|
made it run away crying with his amazing acting talent...and a few Superman punches
he learned from Warrior.
I admit I was leery about The Great Gatsby as the trailer didn’t sell me on it and the resulting mixed reviews from critics didn’t fill me with a desire to rush out and see it. However, I found I really enjoyed the film. The way Luhrmann showed the obnoxious rich man’s decadence and tomfoolery and the way Carraway becomes increasingly alienated from the money-chucking snobs he once thought he wanted to be a part of, not to mention the distinct visual style, its music and the jaw-dropping performances really made for a great movie and I think I’m actually going to read the book now.