Baz Luhrmann is one of those rare directors that has created a niche for himself. He has a very specific style that when fully embraced yields some fantastic, over-the-top, exciting and memorable films. When the opposite happens we get Australia. But with such specificity, you also become quite polarizing and that is the best way I can describe him in terms of my preferences. I don’t always like his over-the-top silliness. Sometimes it all feels very trivial and superficial, while other times there’s genuine emotion and sense aw behind the glitter and acidic colours. To put in perspective, love Romeo & Juliette but utterly despise Moulin Rougue. So where does The Great Gatsby fall? With the latter.
Told in flashbacks, Nick Carraway (Tobey MaGuire) looks back at his first summer in New York where everything in his life changed. Between visting his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and boozing it up Daisy’s husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), Nick started a friendship with his famous neighbour Mr. Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gradually Nick becomes Mr. Gatsby’s one an only friend and the gate keeper of his secrets, principally the one about Gatsby and Daisy rekindling their past love.
I have not read the novel, so I entered this film pretty blind and without any knowledge of what to expect in regards to story. Visually the film did meet all my expectations. In true Baz Luhrmann fashion, The Great Gatsby astounds with a remarkable aesthetic that makes all the fun incredibly palpable. This is where Luhrmann shines the brightest when it is all about having fun and being wild. The spectacle here is raised to trillions as we get insanely fantastical parties with literally everything you could want. Everything is louder, brighter and brilliantly intoxicating. Then we also have the general aesthetic of the film with the amazing set design and the even better costuming. All that works beautifully and special effects are utilized in very simple but effective ways. They are there to enhance the otherworldly feel of it all and to weave all the cool locations and emotions of the characters. The 3D is also pretty good and utilized in such a way that doesn’t feel gimmicky or inconsequential.
The soundtrack, as expected, is also outstanding from start to finish. I listened to the soundtrack prior to watching the film and I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling it too much. Some songs worked, while others simply did not. However, placed in conjunction with the visuals and glamour and sentimentality of the film all the songs roar. Baz Luhrmann has always been able to insert modern music into old setting with seamless ease. On paper such a thing probably shouldn’t work, but Luhrmann is the absolute master of it. All the songs feel essential to the film and are placed always in such a way that whatever you’re seeing or experiencing is enhanced tenfold. I also liked that the film opted to have lots of instrumental tracks, which judging front he soundtrack you would not have expected. My favourite track was by The xx and it played during the end credits. That was my favourite moment of the film. That song made you leave the film with a sense of eeriness and foreboding wander that was pretty spellbinding.
And the last positive thing I can say about The Great Gatsby is that all the performances are adequate. There’s nothing outstanding about any of the actors and actresses, but they all deliver enough to keep you engaged. Carey Mulligan is enchanting and duplicities, Tobey Maguire carries the film with ease, Leonardo DiCaprio is more charming than he has been in years, and Joel Edgerton is menacingly awesome. And that’s about it although I will say that none of these actors have looked as beautiful as they look in this film. Leave to Baz Luhrmann to render all these already beautiful faces even more unnaturally majestic. Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio in particular look just way too amazing. It think it gets to a point where it almost hurts, because let’s face our normal human eyes weren’t meant to view such divine beauty.
All the superficial elements of The Great Gatsby work fine but the story itself does not. Now I don’t know how faithful this film is to the novel, buy I personally found the plot to be utterly trivial and boring. There was no sense of mystery for me and all of the twists where visible from miles away. Everything felt too superficial and without any real stakes. I was so bored that I literally fell asleep for about 20 minutes. Perhaps such a story reads better in written word but in film it is dull and predictable. I genuinely did not care about a single character in this film, they all seem like duplicates, pathetic, self-involved assholes. There where a couple of times when I seriously thought about walking out of the theatre, like would should I waste my time watching this crap when I can be walking home listening to Random Access Memories?
In so all the glitter, booze and spectacle aren’t enough for me to eat the shit storm of dullness that is The Great Gatsby. It’s a bit odd, because objectively I’m aware of the fact that some feels are supposed to be trivial yet you throughly enjoy them. This however was the kind of trivial that made you seriously question your decision and in turn make you feel guilty for choosing something so dumb. I would say that at least the film looked nice, but if I’m being honest the arresting visuals loss their magic after an hour. I was pass the point of care and everything the character did or thought felt annoying. This is not the fan static film people expected and I kind bummed that it did not deliver on the fun it promised at all. The Great Gatsby probably won’t do too much damage to the people involved, but it stands as a testament that sometimes Baz Luhrmann spectacle can really misfire.
(Source: toto-ro, via evanjellion)
Instant Crush by Daft Punk will be the fucking death of me…