DVD Review: The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby released in 2013 by Baz Luhrman from a screen-play he developed with Australian actor Craig Pearce, is the fifth movie adaption of what many consider the All American novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a man immersed in the 20s to the extent he sadly became an alcoholic through his social circles and later died of a heart attack in his early 40s. His life’s work consists primarily of five books and a number of short stories. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was one of those stories turned into a movie by David Fincher which we saw portrayed by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
The story of Gatsby is one of a mystery millionaire shaking up the New York society in the 20s. Luhrman takes us on a psychedelic tour of the lives of the rich and the infamous through the roaring 20s and as only Baz can there is a flamboyantly dressed cast set against a backdrop that feels like its formed of fresh paint dripping in colour. One of the key credits for the film is the special effects that have transformed movie sets, vacant back-lots and fields into mansions, New York streets and ornate gardens. It’s worth having a look on YouTube for a special effects show-reel of the effects found in a movie without space-ships.
For this outing Luhrman reunites with Leonardo DiCaprio who he directed in Romeo + Juliet. Leonardo picks up the lead to work alongside Tobey Maguire who plays Nick Carraway, the character who acts almost as the voice of F. Scott Fitzgerald walking through his own story. As the production was produced in Australia a number of Australian actors play roles including Isla Fisher as a love-interest in Myrtle Wilson. Her beau Tom Buchannan is played by Joel Edgerton and he walks the role of the brutish yank with a great deal of enthuse. His wife Daisy played by UK actress Carey Mulligan felt a little flat as did Maguire’s role in very much ‘Pleasantville’ mode.
The stand-out role goes to DiCaprio. He is enigmatic as the playboy like glamour lead. At times conflicted but always endearing, DiCaprio gives a superb performance that you feel the original book was written for him. As Gatsby he is a man living entrenched in the lie he portrays as a dream. Gatsby is the man with love on his mind and deceit in his plan to win his love and DiCaprio begs you to cheer for him.
Gatsby is always a challenging novel to recreate. Many see the 20s as a mix of both the dark and the sparkle. The lower classes were struggling after World War I while the elite were casting their own future. Critics of Baz Luhrman’s version felt it was too light and colourful to be a faithful recreation.
Admittedly one of the key elements of a Luhrman production isn’t just in costume and set but is heavily invested in the score. Similar to Moulin Rouge, Gatsby plays the traditional into a Techno style and creates an incredible atmosphere thanks to the work of Luhrman and Anton Monsted with Jay-Z as Executive producer. With talent like Fergie, Florence and the Machine as well as Lana Del Rey and Emeli Sandé its not difficult to enjoy the soundtrack.
I came away enthused by The Great Gatsby. While there are moments that are let down by the acting performances I believe the overall sense of the film as well as DiCaprio’s lead make it a great spectacular and well worth the glitz and gold draped over the movie posters.
Rating: M Violence and sex scenes.