The Great Gatsby
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writer(s): Baz Luhrmann, based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language
My Rating 3.5 out of 5
Synopsis from IMDB:
An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway is lured into the lavish world of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby’s nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await.
I remember being amazed by Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo + Juliet. I was obsessed with My So-Called Life during its way-too-brief run (seriously, Jordan Catalano and the way he leans) and so obviously loved Claire Danes and was already absolutely enamored with Leonardo di Caprio based on his early career on the show Growing Pains and movies like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Basketball Diaries. What Baz did with the adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous works certainly wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I absolutely adored the way he made the story modern, while keeping the antiquated language. The bright colors, the elaborate sets, the beautiful costumes. I loved it all.
So I was thrilled when I heard that Leo and Baz were teaming up again for one of my favorite classics: The Great Gatsby. I’m sure most of you know the basic premise of the story line, but for those who don’t The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway, a young Yale graduate who fought in WWI and has recently moved to New York to learn about the bond business. He is renting a small cottage nestled in between the newly built mansions in West Egg, Long Island. His new digs are next to the uber-mansion of a mysterious man named Jay Gatsby. Nick is enthralled by the lavish parties that are constantly raging next door and is eventually personally invited to one by the host. He soon finds out that nobody at the party seems to know who Gatsby is. In fact, they weren’t even invited and never are. Everybody just shows up at Gatsby’s house knowing that they will be welcomed and entertained.
Across the bay/harbor/some strip of water is what is known as East Egg. East Egg also has elaborate mansions lining its shores, but the residents are mostly “old money” who scoff at those with “new money” (like Gatsby)…This isn’t really touched on in the movie, but the distinction of new and old money is important in the novel. Over on East Egg lives Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan and her husband, the formidable Tom Buchanan. It is because of Nick’s connection with Daisy that he was invited to Gatsby’s house. You see Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for years (the two were together before Gatsby was shipped off to war) and Gatsby wants Nick to arrange a meeting between the two.
Her husband, Tom, is portrayed as mean and careless. He has a mistress, Myrtle, who lives in the desolate part of Long Island in between the Eggs and the city known as Valley of Ashes. Myrtle’s husband owns a gas station in the Valley. Because Tom is such a vile character, the audience feels justified in rooting for Gatsby to be reunited with his long-lost love.
I really enjoyed this adaptation of The Great Gatsby. I didn’t see it in 3D as I didn’t find that necessary. The cinematography is amazing. The colors, the costumes, the houses! Seriously, both Gatsby’s house and the Buchanan’s house are absolutely stunning. Stunning. While I’ve heard complaints from others, I wasn’t bothered by the anachronistic soundtrack. After seeing both Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge it was what I was expecting from the director.
As far as the cast is concerned, I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. Leo was the perfect Gatsby and absolutely nailed it. Joel Edgerton was wonderful as Tom and while Isla Fisher was a surprising choice for Myrtle, I think she did a great job. While I like Tobey Maguire and think he did a good job, frankly I feel like he was just plain too old for the role. Nick is 30 in Fitzgerald’s novel and is awed by the city and by Gatsby. Maguire has to be in his late 30s, early 40s by now which makes his wide-eyed wonder unconvincing. A younger actor would have been a better choice. As far as Carey Mulligan, I’m sorry to say I think she is just too plain for this role. Daisy is a tough character because she is so vapid and silly (she’s the fool she hopes her daughter grows up to be). In both the book and the movie it is hard to understand why Gatsby is so infatuated with her. For this reason, the actor portraying her has to have a beauty and charisma that Mulligan just doesn’t have, in my opinion.
Overall, I would definitely recommend seeing The Great Gatsby and because of the cinematography and spectacle, I would recommend seeing it in theaters if you get the chance. Baz really stayed very faithful to the novel with only a few small changes that were necessary in converting the novel to the screen. The Great Gatsby has long been one of my favorite classics. It isn’t the easiest book to read, as many a high school student will attest, but I still love it and am happy to see it has finally received the big screen treatment it deserves.
On a side note, it is rumored that Baz and Leo are tackling Hamlet next!!!
Have you seen this movie? What did you think? Have you read the book?