By Peter Hyle and Christian DiMartino
One of the first summer releases of the year, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, has rolled into theaters with conflicting reviews. To say that this movie has been unfairly judged is an understatement, this movie was a fresh, original take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. But this review is no comparison between the film and the book it was based on.
The story centers around Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a writer from the Midwest who moves to New York. He lives next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and soon Gatsby draws him into a rich and fast-paced lifestyle. Quickly, Carraway begins to realize everything his new friend does is in a frantic attempt to attract Carraway’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). The only problem is Daisy’s cheating husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton), who refuses to let go.
What starts out as an exhilarating and perfect fantasy soon crumbles, and the film is beautifully corrupted by Gatsby’s own desperation. Carraway’s struggle to help everyone and be the neutral party throughout the film is perfect for the narration, and the development of that character is subtle but entirely satisfying. Judging by Maguire’s previous movies, this is one of his better roles. This actor, known for the Spider-Man trilogy, is capable of much more than most people believe.
The film is caught up in a dazzling, epic swirl of colors and music which only adds to the overall storyline. This is best shown in the party sequences, in which Luhrmann is a master at crafting. What works best with the party sequences is the blend of fantasy and reality all throughout the story line.
The character of Gatsby himself is played perfectly by DiCaprio. The mystery and intense flaws that envelope Gatsby’s character would not have been as intriguing with any other actor. It now makes sense just what Luhrmann, who also directed DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet, sees in him, talent wise. DiCaprio will win an award some day. Due to the mixed reaction that the film received, it will most likely not be for this one. But he has time, just wait.
Gatsby was phenomenal, but every character in this movie held some sort of depth or charm. The whole movie was packed tightly with heartache and excitement, and it would not be the same if any other role was cast differently.
Another stellar aspect of this film is the soundtrack. Modern hip hop and R&B is mixed with classic jazz-era music, creating an energizing and overall rousing mood for the film, which included Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, Jack White, and Beyonce. It worked well with each and every scene and enhanced the whole tone of the movie.
Looking past the one too many “old sports,” this film was incredible. It was a stunning piece of work, both theatrically and musically. Some critics will continue comparing it to the book, which does differ in many ways.
Here is the thing with Luhrmann’s films: they are an acquired taste. He consistently takes something that is a beloved classic and puts his twist on it. That twist is usually something modern, flashy, and occasionally wildly bizarre. The Great Gatsby is all of those things, and if those elements do not appeal, or Luhrmann’s other films such as Moulin Rouge and Australia, do not appeal, then this film likely will not please. Luhrmann’s work is good, and watching it for simply the movie itself, it is hard to find any real problems.