Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Ilsa Fisher, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Adelaide Clemens
Directed by Baz Luhrman
Based on the Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Run Time: 143 min
Genre: Drama, Romance
Release Date: May 10, 2013
My Score: 8 out of 10
Nick Carraway (Maguire) moves to New York in the summer of 1992 and lives in West Egg in a small cottage next to the mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). As Nick experiences life in New York, he begins to see the way of life in the East as he is drawn into the affairs of Mr. Gatsby and his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan).
This is one incredibly difficult story to adapt to the big screen, and in my opinion Baz Luhrman was the man for the job and he did the book justice! Luhrman’s film may be visually over the top, but he doesn’t miss the essence of the novel’s message. The cast he has assembled is perfect for the characters they portray, and although it is not the best film I have seen all year, I was none the less satisfied with what I saw.
First off, Baz Luhrman completely nailed the visuals and feel of Gatsby’s parties. They were wild, and his use of modern music worked completely fine as it had the same effect jazz music would have had back in the 20’s. So, the party sequences were a blast to watch, and the streamers and the glitz in 3D really caught your eyes. I guess this is a good point to comment on the music for the film. Luhrman made a very unusual choice not to have a musical score to the film, but just use lyrical songs with the help of Jay-Z (I know, who would have thought for Gatsby that Jay-Z would have been a good fit) but every song in the film speaks completely to the story and they are synced perfectly to the movie so that they fit incredibly well, and it is probably the first actual soundtrack (not score) to a non-musical film that I have thoroughly enjoyed in a long time.
Plot wise, the film is nearly identical to the novel, with a few small changes that would only be noticed by those who have read the novel more than once. The lines are almost word for word, and I really enjoyed its truth to the novel as there is a reason that it is a classic. For getting to the deeper ideas in the novel, although the movie does not articulate all of the points, through the combination of the performances and Luhrman’s visual style of directing, all of them are made and they are just as profound as when you read them in Fitzgerald’s novel, so there is no worry that the classic has been tainted by this film. Also, the long run time could have obscured the deeper ideas of the novel as it was almost two and half hours and if you have read the novel, there is no thrilling plot, but if you enjoyed the novel you will have no problems with the length.
The cast, probably the more difficult part of the film to critique. To start off, every single member of the cast was perfect for their roles and the completely brought the characters to life. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, and I knew from the second he was casted that he was the only person who could pull off the role, but the problem is the role. Gatsby is very distant for lots of the film, and the story is all from Nick’s eyes so his role, as good as DiCaprio was, is unfortunately not going to get him any awards (as much as it is DiCaprio’s time to win!) Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan were great as Nick and Daisy respectively, they are the other major characters in the film. But again, the problem is lots of the characters are very shallow so it was very hard to get a great performance out of the actors, but that is just the nature of the story. To summarize all performances, they were real versions of the characters, and anyone who knows the characters from the book, this will mean a lot to you.
The set design and costumes for the movie were amazing. Truly captured the era of the 20’s and Gatsby glamorous parties, but the use of 3D puzzled me a bit. With the parties being the exception the 3D really served no purpose to the film. It added depth to the settings, but it really did nothing for the film. It was the first drama I had ever seen in 3D, and there truly is a reason for that. I don’t think there will be another drama anytime soon in 3D until all films are shot in 3D.
As a fan of the book, this film satisfied everything that a Great Gatsby movie could do as it truly brought the book to life on the big screen exactly how it should have been done!