Overall, I would say this movie is a 4/5. It was interesting watching, because I haven’t read the book or seen a version since I was in high school–so it’s been at least twelve years. I’d forgotten how much I loathe Daisy as a person (though from a literary sense, she’s a well developed, well-written character). I’m going to break this review into discussing the directing, acting, writing and atmosphere.
Very identifiable as one of Lurhmann’s films, Gatsby has the same zooming views, the same color saturation, the same overall feel of juxtaposing a bombardment of the senses with muted quiet. In that sense, the film felt very familiar. I thought also that his style of directing and the cinematography employed in the making of this film fit well with the 1920′s in America, and in particular, New York City. The promise of an economical boom, buffered before and after by the travesty of war and the Great Depression. Whether or not this was intentional, I’m not sure, but it would be all to easy to connect the dots.
It needs to be said, even though it’s an assumption I often feel safe making. Leonardo DiCaprio was amazing. I remember when I first saw the trailer for this year’s release of the movie and thought to myself, They got someone great to play Gatsby. At least there’s that. I was a bit cynical because I remember adoring the book so much in high school, and to me, Robert Redford also played a perfect Gatsby. It’s a big role, and definitely one DiCaprio can handle. Truthfully, everyone was great. I’m not usually a big fan of Tobey Maguire, but he wasn’t too bad. I’m having trouble thinking who would have made a better Nick but am coming up short at the moment, so I will leave you with my impression of him which was better than expected. Carey Mulligan was fantastic as Daisy–she very much became her on screen.
The movie was a tad long. At nearly two and a half hours, I wished sometimes it had picked up the pace. There were many moments spent filming curtains flowing in the wind, or dead leaves blowing through a door. I understand that film deserves an artistic quality but perhaps it would not have felt so superfluous if the writing had kept things at a tighter pace. It’s interesting–it’s the exact same length (144 minutes) as the Robert Redford version, yet I didn’t feel as though that was drawn out. It’s for this reason that I’m convinced the writing might have been a little stronger.
The “Roaring Twenties” certainly roared. The 1920′s were so defined by the fashion, music, dance and art deco design that it is one of the most, in my opinion, instantly recognizable decades in American history. This movie was spot on in almost all things…what felt out of place was about 40% of the music. I know what the filmmakers were trying to do. It worked in Luhrmann’s past films, but it didn’t seem to work too well here. I know that the music helped bring to light the still-rampant racism, and I know it was Luhrmann’s typical modern music take on the past, but in most instances it just felt out of time and therefore was jarring. The one piece that worked was Beyonce’s Crazy in Love, because it was remixed to sound at least a tiny bit like the music being produced in the 1920′s.
Overall, I think it was worth going to see. It was enjoyable, vivid, and captivating. I hope it inspires people to go and read the book, as in most cases (and this is no exception), the book is certainly superior…but this was a good two and a half hours.