The Great Gatsby (2013) | Movie Review
Release date: May 10, 2013
Runtime: 2 hr. 23 min.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Here we go again with a book-to-screen adaption getting mixed reviews. I'm coming to a conclusion that there is no such thing as an adaptation that makes the majority of people happy. I'm not saying I'm any good at separating films from the literary works they are based on - in fact, I contribute my good share of snobbish "book-was-so-much-better-than-the-move" remarks on a regular basis. However, maybe because F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic is not something I grew up on, this film didn't bother me nearly as much as things like this normally do.
The story is told through the memories of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who remembers his days in New York with contempt. The movie focuses almost entirely on the love triangle between his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), his next door neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Daisy's husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). As usual, quite a bit of the book and character development got left out of the film, but that's not anything unusual when it comes to condensing a book into a script and the main storyline is there. The film is Baz Luhrmann's version and vision of the book rather than a traditional adaptation. This is something everyone needs to know before seeing the film, but honestly, it's Baz Luhrmann we're talking about - why would anyone expect traditional from him?
The movie made me think back to watching Joe Wright's Anna Karenina back in December 2012, except for The Great Gatsby worked better. This was probably one of the best looking movies I have ever seen: the costumes, the colors, the settings, the cinematography - all undeniably stunning. The party scenes are lavish chaos that we all loved so much in Moulin Rouge! and the few quiet moments are a striking contrast. I didn't even mind the contemporary music - I thought it fit well with the overall style and mood of the film.
The cast is fantastic. It's hard to single out a performance and name it as the best in the film - no matter how large or how small the role was, all of the actors fit their characters inside and out. While Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan deliver great performances, as they always do, I have to say I was very impressed with Joel Edgerton's Tom, particularly in the confrontation scene at the Plaza Hotel. However, here is the problem that I had with everyone across the board in this movie: I didn't care about a single character. It's not even that I disliked all of them - I just really didn't care about what happens to them and what their problems were. For some reason couldn't connect with anyone. This might have happened because all of the characters other than Gatsby himself were brief, so to speak: it felt like I was getting a tip of the iceberg of who they were and it wasn't enough.
So did I think the novel got lost in the style? A little bit. I especially felt that way in the beginning, where the film cuts from one bit to the next at a speed that makes you feel like you're having a sudden ADD attack. However, I was on board with the interpretation for the most part. There were some great quiet and emotional moments. I recommend this movie to anyone willing to give a non-traditional approach to a classic a chance. The key to enjoying any Baz Luhrmann work is to keep an open mind and The Great Gatsby is by no means an exception.