The Great Gatsby (2013) (PG-13)
This review contains SPOILERS!
I didn't like F. Scott Fitzgerald's book The Great Gatsby. Be shocked, call me uncivilized, do what you may—I refuse to change my mind. Whether it was the narration of a certain Nick Carraway or the suave of the man Gatsby himself, I cannot tell what it was about the book that disinterested me. But say what you may about the book, it seems impossible to film.
The Baz Luhrmann film adaptation of the book is not the first, nor is it the second. It doesn't even land in the first three attempts at making the book into a movie—but I would say that it is the most outlandish and wildly colorful.
The film begins with the key theme and attraction of the book—the time of the past, nostalgia. We hear Nick Carraway (the deplorable Tobey Maguire) talking about alcohol...a random way to start, but there you have it. He says that everyone was drunk back in "those days", that the liquor flowed freely and the morals were looser—it was called "The Roaring Twenties" for a reason.
Nick is an a sanitarium, talking to a doctor about his experiences. He is haunted by his memories and has turned into an anxious, alcoholic insomniac. The doctor asks him about his experiences: what made him this way?
Then we get a retelling of Nick's interactions with a mysterious man named Gatsby and the results thereof.
It didn't all begin with Gatsby, first there is a cousin and her polo-playing, prostitute-employing husband. A golfing friend, the mob, and eventually we get to Gatsby.
Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and Tom (Joel Edgerton) are Nick's cousin and her husband.
Tom is rich and Daisy is spoiled, they invite Nick over for lunches and parties—they like living on the wilder side.
Poor Nick, he gets dragged along to Tom's other woman's apartment where drunkenness ensues and the name of Gatsby pops up a few more times.
For those of you who didn't take literature in highschool, I'll leave the actual plot devices for you to figure out when you read the book. If you have no intentions on reading the book—too bad, I'm feeling lazy.
Suffice it to say that Gatsby is a man who everyone talks about. Moving to make a living and to pursue a career in writing, Nick finds himself in a little shack sitting next to Gatsby's mansion.
Gatsby throws parties every weekend and people attend—they just show up uninvited. Nick is the only person who gets asked to the party by Gatsby, who shows some interest in the young man...even though they've never met face-to-face.
Right from the start, Luhrmann seems desperate to recreate the 1920s in a way that they've never been shown. He tries to capture the classiness, the insanity, and the perversion—and on all three counts, he fails.
It really is a dreadful representation of the time period, though it took a bold swing at it.
At least it tried hard, bitterly, it failed equally as hard.
There is no real class to Luhrmann's 1920s, which seem colorfully lifeless. Also not present is the restraint of the book. Luhrmann's adaptation is loud and brash with nothing to hide...not the best decision.
So keen is the film on proving itself worthy of the time period, that the makers didn't stop and ask whether they should or not.
Again, for those who didn't read the book—the whole way the story is told is different. Nick Carraway never went crazy on booze, though it could have happened. You can't just add on to Fitzgerald with a story line that seems only slightly plausible.
Anyways, the film goes on...and on....and on—it overstays its already unwelcome visit.
Instead of the 20s, we get a dressy 60s. It's a very psychedelic looking movie. The costumes are gaudy, the rap songs pound away in the background, and an Amy Winehouse classic gets butchered by Beyonce...everything to hate is included in "The Great Gatsby".
Leonardo DiCaprio plays the title character and he is the only actor (beside a small role played by Elizabeth Debicki) that does a half-way decent job. I think that he is a great choice for Gatsby, though he does over-act sometimes.
Nick mentions at the beginning that Gatsby is a man filled with hope...I think not. Gatsby is a dark character, one that is naive. Naivety and hope being different things in my eyes.
The film assumes that it can just leave questions unanswered—the whole reason for Nick's alcoholism is unexplained.
Current pop music blares over the speakers featuring rap and indie artists. If the entire film was shot this way it would be one thing, but it's not...it doesn't commit to its own stylization. There are still strings and orchestrations and eventually the pop music fades.
The don't trust themselves enough...not a good place to start.
But it all comes down to Tobey Maguire as the man who singlehandedly ruins this movie. He is given some of the lines from the book to say verbatim—I have never seen someone completely mess up a performance like he does here.
I could recount all of the film's many sins...it would take too long. I appreciate its boldness, but it needed more thought.
I never thought I would say this, but the film makes the book look like a masterpiece.
If you were to play a drinking game—take a shot every time Gatsby says "old sport" and another one every time Tobey Maguire ruins a scene—you would be dead of alcohol poisoning.
Score: 2 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones