2013 “THE GREAT GATSBY” Film Review – Dumbing Down The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann’s Spectacle Misses the Point!
Baz Luhrmann’s new 3-D movie “The Great Gatsby” follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks.
Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan(Joel Edgerton).
It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and does not hold a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.
The film is like a glitzy rap version of “Gone With The Wind” with Snoop Dog hummin Tara’s theme. Tobey Maguire comes across like a box boy from Gristedes and the “women” are something out of a costume drama at a local high school. The problem with these “period” films today are the American “actors” and actresses basically have no character and class. You see them off screen and they are running around like perpetual teenagers – backpack victims.
Leonard DiCaprio is a classy guy and would have been much better helped by good British actors than the second rate American cast of high fiver casting types. The young American women’s voices are voice of elocution training. Half the time they can’t find their pitch – they are either wining in their version of the social registry jargon or jarring along in “Valley girl” speak like talking heads on Fox News.
This “Gatsby” joins a long list of bad films of an over-rated novel.
Grand liners like the IMPERATOR were used to carry the Gatsby rich and famous from New York to Europe (“or across the pond”)…
(Left: F. Scott Fitzgeral sails for Europe aboard a Cunard Liner in the early 1920s…) As for Mr. Luhrmann, he and his colleagues have worked like whirling dervishes to make the plot look like it’s moving. He gives you way too much of what you didn’t really want in the first place: soulless high jinks. The net result of all this cinematic whirling, of the “wrong” music and of the parodic plot, is that nothing at all in the film moves us.
Perhaps the film’s cardinal sin is that Luhrmann just doesn’t have any idea when to pull the final curtain on this “American” myth and go back to his first films.
The film has no satire, no tragedy, and lacks depth, irony, and nuance.
It is nothing but adolescent emotion—overblown, simplistic, self-indulgent—and in matters of textual analysis, functionally illiterate.
The film follows the 1974 failed Gatsby adaptation in, as Vincent Canby said, “seeing almost everything and comprehending practically nothing.”
Luhrmann and his 3-D glasses shows us freshly squeezed orange juice and bootlegged liquor, the cream Rolls and pink suit, and the breast “hanging like a flap” so close to you and your 3-D glasses you can almost reach it!
It shows us everything but comprehends nothing. Mr. Luhrmann cannot deliver Fitzgerald’s devastating moral judgment of the rich at their rotten, careless core, because he loves them, and those beautiful silk shirts, too much.
The Great Gatsby is more than some dimly remembered required reading, or the ‘basis’ for some ridiculous re-imagining. The book is a funny, heartbreaking, vividly modern work of social criticism, and the depth and beauty of its writing should not be diminished by the misreadings and short-cuts of Mr. Luhrmann. The film, like Daisy, is a dazzling, seductive trick of the eye, “a beautiful little fool” unworthy of devotion.
In the end… the film is like watching “War and Peace” on an iPad directed by Mark Zuckerberg with all the glitz of renting a car from Uber.
PG-13, Drama, Romance, Directed By: Baz Luhrmann. Written By: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce and based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.