Firstly, I must apologise for the rather long wordpress-hiatus that I have had, I am apologising for both the break and the lack of mentioning my plans. I hope I haven’t disheartened anyone that reads my blog. The reason for this long break was a rather heavy work load and lack of time to write, rather than lack of patience to write. Either way, I am back, and in return I hope to keep this blog more up to date than previous (although that may not be much of a difficult task, as I haven’t posted for 3 months). Enough of this and back to films.
F. Scott Fitzgerald served Hollywood more than it served him, in fact, I think it would be safe to say that he shaped Hollywood, creating this illusion (and then truthful fact) of roaring parties, unlimited glamour and constant scandal. Not only did Fitzgerald get the gratitude and respect from Hollywood in his time, he certainly isn’t repaid the due amount in this movie. Instead, he is offered a dollop of CGI, 3D and Jay-Z. Hmmmm, doesn’t seem quite right?
The Great Gatsby is the story of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), who lives in a picturesque Gothic mansion and throws lavish parties, in hope that one day his long-lost, but now married, love, Daisy (Carrey Mulligan), will turn up. Gatsby is then pleased to discover that his new neighbor, Nick (Toby Maguire), an aspiring stockbroker, is 2nd cousins with Daisy and Gatsby uses him as a way to re-engage with Daisy.
As you may already know, I am picky about book adaptations anyway, especially if that book adaptation is one of my favourite books, and Baz Luhrmann really did nothing for my OCD and nit-picking. I think my main problem lies with Toby Maguire, he is either miscast or misdirected, and I can’t decide which is worse. The endless gawping resembles nothing but a poor child on their first day at school. Not only this but Maguire strips the novel of all its clever hinting, its subtle humour and its subliminal message, I know this can’t be pinned on Maguire alone, but the main areas that annoy me, feature when he graces the screen. With the novel being narrated by Nick, he is Fitzgeralds observer, his muse, his reflection and morals, however, Luhrmann and/or Maguire strip this off the character and instead create a giant 3rd wheel, and intruder, someone who does not belong, and this is exactly what Nick is not.
I think the real issue with this film is Luhrmann’s lack of care with the original novel, or even the original purpose. Luhrmann’s intentions were visual beauty, to shower the film in golden tinsel, diamond encrusted people and of course, Jay-Z, and this is a foolish mistake with such a well appreciated and classic novel. I’m not saying the over-modernisation was bad, (we all loved Luhrmanns ‘Romeo and Juliet’, right?) I’m just saying that by modernising it to that extent, he stripped the story of its meaning, instead heavily romanticizing the story, making people come out of the cinema muttering things like ‘I want someone to love me like Jay Gatsby loves Daisy’ and in return missing the whole damn point of the novel. Luhrmann portrayed it as a love story, a heart throb, a soppy romantic flick, and missing the key theme- greed.
However, I have few bad words to say about Mr DiCaprio. It really felt like he fully understood the role, even more so than the director himself. Still boasting the boyish charm but capturing the greed and selfishness of the character, DiCaprio really is the star of the show, its just a shame that it once again seems like he is falling short of that oscar. He is perfectly broken but still carries that important charismatic charm that we associate with Jay Gatsby. I mean, if anyone could pull off a candyfloss-coloured suit it would be DiCaprio. I think the main fault with DiCaprio was his motivation, and his push. He was about as deep as the spilt martini from one of Gatsby’s lavish parties, he showed no burning desire to be with Daisy, but then again, this might just be DiCaprio once again highlighting Gatsby’s greed and lust, rather than love.
The soundtrack as a whole annoyed me, just like the film itself, it was over modernised but in a way that is hard to explain. It was like Luhrmann was trying too hard to make it up-to-date and in return, corrupting the whole movie. In my opinion, you need to keep classic novels fairly classic, you must decide between the dialogue, the score or the visuals, he just chose all 3. It is a Jazz-era story, and I don’t think it was wrong to assume that Jazz would feature somewhere in the soundtrack. It was too recognisable, too well known, too jarring. I think the soundtrack could have been smarter, more well thought out, and somehow incorporating Jazz, instead, it just seemed like someone had made a list of random love-songs, and then made a few phone calls to make the biggest stars cover them.
I suppose what you can say about the film is that it is in no way understated. Each scene dazzles, those dresses, the lights, the panning camera, the superficiality the feathers! It feels like the screen is going to burst at any minute. Even the grimy slag-heaps and dirt is overstated, somehow making it look picturesque, the visuals do amaze, they just don’t fit. The film is exhausting, and certainly needs a few watches to appreciate the visuals.
To conclude, I think Luhrmann has mistaken Fitzgerald for Gatsby, the film isn’t believable, it is entertaining and visually pleasing, but is isn’t believable and certainly isn’t subtle. Luhrmann is like a 12 year old girl infatuated with Leonardo DiCaprio, he has missed the whole point of the novel to portray the story as a love story, which it certainly isn’t. If you are after a realistic film, you are better off watching Star Trek: Into Darkness. It will certainly contain less CGI anyway.