Michelle Douvris ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Movies Editor
The Great Gatsby has incurred a heavy amount of hype in the past few months, due to a variety of factors. For one, the release date was pushed back from Christmas to May, signaling the start of a fresh new wave of summer blockbusters. Songs from the Jay-Z-produced soundtrack rolled out onto the Internet as well, igniting buzz about the decision to incorporate a more modern sound into a 1920’s tale. The Gatsby excitement was heightened even further by a set of great trailers and promotional spots, undoubtedly bringing in an audience unfamiliar with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved novel. So you’re probably thinking, what’s the verdict?
I think the film should be renamed The Pretty Cool Gatsby.
Everything about this movie exudes cool. Leonardo DiCaprio in a sharp white suit and slicked back hair. The extravagant party scenes. The old-fashioned cars driving into New York City, or “into town” as the characters like to call it. And especially the decision to release this film in 3D. Director Baz Luhrmann chose to make a lavish visual spectacle, which made for an exciting film that ended up lacking some necessary subtlety.
Luhrmann’s main agenda for this movie was to impress. Instead of letting the story unfold naturally, he fixates on particular moments and orders you to pay attention. Each time a new character is introduced, he chooses camera shots that formally announce their appearance. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby is first seen standing on his dock, back turned to the camera, a mysterious figure in the night. You automatically know he’s important without seeing his face. You automatically know he’s Gatsby. Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) has a similar reveal. The audience first meets her from behind a couch, wondering if the giggling woman could be Daisy sprawled out on the other side. Luhrmann makes each character’s entrance a theatrical display.
Luhrmann’s theatrical style, while sometimes criticized, may be this movie’s saving grace. The film started to drag a little towards the middle and without his artistic flair, some of the scenes could have been downright boring. This is probably due to editing and pacing issues, not necessarily the actors’ performances.
Speaking of the actors’ performances, DiCaprio possesses the Gatsby glint in his eye that gives the famous character his complexity. His constant use of the nickname “old sport” may lose its effect after awhile, but he ultimately embodies his character and anchors the film. Carey Mulligan also succeeds in embodying the character of Daisy Buchanan, from her gentle voice to her broad spectrum of facial expressions. Joel Edgerton, in my opinion, was probably the strongest of the cast, stealing scenes as the arrogant Tom Buchanan. Toby Maguire starts off a little uninteresting as Nick Carraway, but as the film progresses he steps up to the plate and scores. However, given these solid performances from incredibly talented actors, their characters are sometimes swallowed up by what’s going on around them. Luhrmann’s decision to focus mostly on the visual elements of his 1920’s world was a disservice to some truly great performers.
Baz Luhrmann took on a very ambitious task taking on this adaptation, but I feel like his impressive visual achievements detract from the story’s core as a whole. The Roaring Twenties setting seems to take center stage while the characters are just people living in it, sometimes even swallowed by it. In my opinion, however, this should only irk the most critical moviegoers. For the general public, this will most likely be an exciting trip to the movies. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what diehard fans of the novel have to say.