Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Movie Name: The Great Gatsby
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Adelaide Clemens, Amitabh Bachchan
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

After the disappointing "Australia", director Baz Luhrmann has decided to tackle a classic of American literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" (the book itself has been adapted previously, one of the previous incarnations featured Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan). The film introduces us to Nick Carraway, our narrator. Nick recounts the story of how in the early 1920s he went to NY to work in Wall Street. There he reconnects with his cousin, Daisy and her husband Tom, a philanderer. Nick also realizes his neighbor is a man of a certain reputation, one who organizes lavish parties known throughout New York - his name being Jay Gatsby. Nick gets involved with Gatsby and realizes he has a hidden agenda behind all those lavish parties - he is trying to allure Daisy, whom he was involved with years ago, and whom he wants to reconnect with. Nick's involvement is a catalyst for the main duo's reconnection.
Baz Luhrmann is a director with a very discernible and specific aesthetic. He likes to make reinterpretations of classic stories through a pop lens, one where music, production design and costume design are amped up to a degree that threatens to suffocate the film itself. Sometimes this marriage works - such as his adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" - and sometimes it does not - "Australia" simply didn't work. One thing is undeniable - Luhrmann loves film and uses it as a canvas to portray his view of the world (and art). "The Great Gatsby" is a book that though defining an era (the roaring 20s, the excess of the American lifestyle), is also at it's core a doomed love affair. Luhrmann uses this to pair the more flamboyant side of the parties and the excess of that era with the more intimate side of a romance between two very different characters. The film benefits from a beautiful production design and from two great performances, namely Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan. The cinematography is equally beautiful, and the director uses different visual elements to make this story engaging and unique to the viewer. Though at times the film feels too tied to it's literary reference, this is nonetheless a vision that is bold, unique, and that breathes with love of film and all that this medium can provide. A film worth visiting.