Fitzgerald’s words fall quasi-believably from Leo’s lips with the unfortunate irony that they ring true.
Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby’ offers little more satisfaction to a fan of the ‘great American novel’ than the previous 5 iterations, leaving me filled with frustration and the feeling that I am covered in gaudy glitter.
What’s most agonising about 2013’s offering to this literary classic is that it has so much potential to be an outstanding piece of film, reaching for more than just cinematography. I feel like Team Baz stared shallowly at the source material and saw an opportunity to make something elaborate, glitzy and stylish and in an effort to accomplish this, accumulated a CGI bill trying to rival Star Trek. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the visual effects had been of Star Trek standard, but the Pixar graphics give the proceedings an unnervingly Zach Snyder vibe; the setting seems like a farce and detracts from any engagement with the period and those that inhabit it. This is hugely unfortunately because, overall, the casting is well executed, with strong performances from DiCaprio as the suspiciously charming (slightly Australian sounding) and naive, Jay Gatsby and Edgerton as a thoroughly unlikable, Tom Buchanan. Isla Fisher, luckily, has little screen time as she really lets the side down, all the while Elizabeth Debicki’s Jordan Baker never quite seems to work, in fact her role is disappointingly down-played.
The audio anachronisms work in some scenes and are laughable in others; whilst Lana Del Rey’s over milked ‘Young and Beautiful’ is the strongest song on Jay-Z’s self-indulgent soundtrack, Florence + The Machine is hauntingly reborn in the dying moments of party decadence. Practically every song from the soundtrack, and more, are included in the film, crowding it with, often unneeded, famous voices in a search for box office greatness.
My main criticism of the film is of its over inclusivity. All beautiful subtleties of the book are lost in a tornado of dub-step, green screen and some appalling editing decision (yes, I’m talking about you narrated-words-getting-typed-on-screen-as-Tobey-Maguire-reads-them). The film’s narrative flow is frequently disrupted by painful montage and flashback and the overexposure of excess being portrayed.
The Great Gatsby is my favourite book and while there was undoubtedly something glorious about seeing the words brought to life more successfully than ever before, it seems like stylistic premise took priority over emotional connection and era engagement. Of course, this film has charm; the cool, beautiful appeal of the time, itself, is something of great desire but it also feels stifled and contrived under its own weight- which, I suppose, is an accurately commentary but it seems to contradict what Luhrmann tries to achieve.
Parts of Gatsby are vastly enjoyable, but comedic elements and lavish partying, complemented by stunning set and costume design boarder living in the shadows of the film’s loud and obtuse flaws. It isn’t as bad as it could have been (or has been) but the modern incarnation of the great American novel leaves a lot to be desired- often through desiring less from a world that seems artificial with a predominately unrealisable population. Yet, this is not a bad film; it just isn’t the film a Gatsby fan expected or wanted.
The roaring twenties seem to roar the loudest in the wrong places and limp when they need to “beat on, ceaselessly”.
Rating: 50%- half great, half grating.