Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

I tried to have an open mind, I really did. Alas, The Great Gatsby failed to win me over. It wasn't as horrible as I assumed it would be, but was still pretty awful.

Where to start? Well, first I'll just come out and say it. I didn't read the book in school *ducks* and have zero emotional/nostalgia points to draw from. I was somewhat familiar with the plot and central themes of the book because, it's such a icon of American literature I couldn't help but absorb them through osmosis over the years. In other words, I went into The Great Gatsby as neutral party. Well, not entirely neutral. I mean, I have eyes. I saw the trailer, I read the news about the Jay-Z soundtrack. I hoped for the best but expected the worst.

The film is a long and jumbled mess. It's literally all over the place. I described Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers as "...a declaration of war on the senses." Well, with The Great Gatsby, director Baz Luhrmann says fuck the war and drops an atom bomb of CGI/glitter/vibrant colors and brash music on screen. I really don't even know where to begin. Gatsby's character is a mysterious playboy who throws lavish parties so I kind of understand the whole "Baz is just keeping it real and making his movie incredibly over the top" argument. But no. God no. He didn't have to go full on jazz hands either.

"Did you read the book? Where we supposed to read the book?"
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Gatsby, a wealthy dude who throws the wildest parties imaginable during the Roaring Twenties. He hangs out with a dorky sidekick (Tobey Maguire...art imitating life Leo?) and tries to woo a lost love back into his life through a series of sneaky/romantic maneuvers. That's about it. There are hints of greater themes buried somewhere in this film, but good luck getting past the layers of cinematic diabetes Luhrman has piled onscreen to enjoy them.

Lurhman pulls a Tarantino/Wes Anderson move and is so in love with his "unique" directing style, the overall substance of the The Great Gatsby is lost in the process. Romantic scenes result in lifeless posturing because the actors are hamming it up. Just about every character in the film is either unlikeable or worse, uninteresting. The music, holy shit the music. I like Jay-Z, he's a cool guy. His soundtrack however, yanked me out of the film more times than Toby Maguire's Spider-Man-esqe narration. So modern audiences are too stupid to appreciate music from the Jazz Age and it's cultural significance and it's very real relevance to The Great Gatsby's story...but they aren't too stupid to throw tomatoes at the screen for the cringe worthy amounts crappy CGI and "3D" shots in the film? This is why I'm a misanthrope who hates my generation and weeps for the future of humanity.

As much as I enjoyed staring at Carey Mulligan's gorgeous face on the big screen, and Joel Edgerton's standout performance as her douchebag husband, I really cannot recommend this movie to anyone. It wasn't horrible but it was frustrating that such a great story (or so I'm told) was damn near ruined like this. Such grand themes about love and loss, obsession and regrets, social mobility and injustice should have been the highlights of this film but instead we get tacky light saber overload...that's what pisses me off so much.


  1. Really good point mate, you're supposed to enjoy the movie as a stand alone movie, you're not supposed to have read the book and then enjoy the movie based off that. The hype annoys me too, the only reason so many people care is because they read the book in school and like you say have nostalgia for it. I might check it out all the same but this review isn't promising, not a good start to say the least haha.

  2. I think I'm one of those people that never understood why it was so hyped. I uh, I mean I figure I'll watch it eventually but I had no intentions, and it sounds like just about what I was expecting.

  3. So disappointed. When i first saw the trailer for the Great Gatsby, i was fucking stoked. Leo as Gatsby? Glorious. Then, I started to hear more about it. Luhrman directing? Ok, he's gaudy and lavish as a film maker, and the novel is about the decadence and decay of the wealthy in the 20s. Soundtrack with artists like Jay-Z to appeal to kids these days instead of ragtime and jazz? Alright... you're starting to loose me. Then, I heard the initial reviews about how its all flash and no substance. I'm not certain when I'll see it. I was going to in theaters, but I no longer want to. The Great Gatsby is both one of the Great American Novels and one of the greatest written works of the 20th century. And now, after it comes out on dvd, kids will be renting this film to avoid reading the book in high school, just like Romeo and Juliet (also directed by fucking Luhrman), except that Romeo and Juliet had the good sense to at least keep the dialogue. I think I have my new life goal: write a screenplay for Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, and make at least one film adaptation of his works match his legacy as a writer.