Last time I even remember thinking about The Great Gatsby was for an English exam back in Year 11 or maybe Year 12 of high school. We were given chapters to read each week and then discussed it in class, and I vaguely remember never actually getting around to reading any of the novel – but paying attention in class was enough to get a grasp of the major themes. So when the exam rolled around and we were given the questions two days in advance to prepare for an in class essay exam, I found it a piece of cake. The real reason I remember this particular bit of tedious high school trivia is due to what happened when we got our grades back… I was walking out of class feeling pretty happy with myself and a fellow student asked me how I went. I smiled and laughed and said ‘Great! Got 32.5 out of 35, and I didn’t even read the book!’
To which my classmate promptly burst into tears. Turns out she had read the book. Twice. She wrote and re-wrote her essay out, and tried to learn it off by heart, and had received a 28 out of 35 for about ten times the effort I put in. Yeah I felt bad, but it’s not my fault that written expression is something that always just came naturally to me and that I’ve always possessed an above average vocabulary which easily impressed my high school teachers. If it makes anyone feel better – I can’t do maths for shit! But… I digress.
Yesterday, I went to see latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby and want to start by saying: Wow! Just wow
With his, now trademark, over the top, larger than life, flamboyant and theatrical style, Baz Luhrmann‘s version of The Great Gatsby literally swept me away! I once read Luhrmann’s style described as ‘cinematic gluttony’ and while viewers and critics alike, often love or loathe his unmistakeable style of direction, this epithet most certainly applies to this film… it was a gluttonous epicurean feast for the eyes.
It’s a roller coaster ride of visually arresting party scenes at Long Island, sparkling and debaucherous adventures into city speakeasies, thrilling and improbable car rides in fabulous 1920s roadsters and gritty and grimey industrial views of the Valley of Ashes set to an ever changing, yet strangely accessible, soundtrack of contemporary jazz interspersed with modern day rap! The lavishly detailed and sparklingly gorgeous art deco sets and glamourous costumes display the decadent lifestyles of Daisy and Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in full Bazamatazz Tehnicolour, and provide a veritable plethora of visual stimuli. While it’s patently not going to be everyone’s ‘thing’, I for one, loved every carefully coiffed scene of it!
Leonardo Di Caprio (previously teamed up with Baz Luhrmann for Romeo + Juliet in 1996, shit that makes me feel old!), did a fabulous job with Jay Gatsby… I was a bit dubious at first, but it was deliciously amusing to watch him playing the usually stoic, calm, confident and supremely self assured Gatsby, turned into the bumbling and awkward beau as he waited to see Daisy for the first time years. And equally enjoyable to watch the tension rising and rising until his explosive outburst of temper at the Plaza that is completely congruous with a the character of a man used to getting what he wants by any means necessary. Di Caprio seems to be getting better as he gets older, if this and Django Unchained are anything to go by. So much so, that the rumours of him playing Hamlet in the near future are not as alarming as they might once have been!
Carey Mulligan (who I’ve only ever seen in An Education but it turns out she has quite an impressive resume already) made a wonderful Daisy, even if she does look remarkably like Katie Holmes’ little sister throughout this entire film! She’s equal parts shallow, doe eyed, self absorbed and ever so slightly soul destroyed. Her indecisiveness regarding Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby, which as most know drives the entire plot, is conveyed perfectly by Mulligan who portrays her inner conflict while looking amazing in ’20s flapper style everything, with a razor sharp blonde bob and smokey retro make up. She’s covered in diamonds and bling and crystals and feathers and furs and I know not what! Kudos for the costume and set designers all round.
Joel Edgerton was positively unrecognizable as the muscular, arrogant and imposing white supremacist, Tom Buchanan. Strangely enough I spent most of the film thinking the character of Myrtle was actually being played by Amy Adams for some bizarre reason when it was actually Isla Fisher, (I make no apologies for not being up to date on my Hollywood starlets, and am actually secretly proud that I rarely know who all of them are!). They were both well cast and well played for characters that are intrinsic to the plot but are effectively supporting actor parts.
Which leaves the only major other major player left in the script – Nick Carraway. Played by Spiderman, err, I mean the unfortunately named Tobey Maguire (Tobey? Who’d name their kid Tobey?). It’s always interesting to see how directors handle first-person narrators from screenplays adapted from novels, and Baz Luhrmann doesn’t try and downplay Carraway’s narrative contributions at all. Instead he embraces it, turns it into a plot device and has Carraway effectively writing the novel within the film. I’m not fond of Maguire though and felt he didn’t quite convey the easy going optimism of Carraway, instead he just came off as awkward, and most of the time incredibly naive and out of his depth… but then again, maybe Carraway was all those things too.
Overall, there is so much that can be (and has been) said about The Great Gatsby that I could go on for ages. I love Bazzle’s interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel and I just really love his style. I definitely think it’s a big screen production and well worth seeing in the cinema. In fact I if I find the time, I’ll probably go see it again. But with one proviso – I saw it in 2D and there’s no way would I want to see this in 3D! So many Baz trademark sweeping camera shots, fast car movements and rapid zooms that I think the 3D would give me a headache! And his artistic vision is so in your face… that I don’t think you need the novelty and distraction of 3D anyway!