5 out of 5 stars (one of the best films I have ever seen, period)
Note: This film was the first I saw by director Baz Luhrmann. His films are visually unique, as well as giving actors some of their most memorable performances. I have a friend who got me to watch most of Luhrmann’s other films (the underrated romantic war dramedy Australia, romantic drama Moulin Rouge!, and even the comically atrocious Romeo + Juliet), and I can say that I like his work. He’s not for everyone, but for those who like quirky tales, I highly recommend his work. Please enjoy my review of his Great Gatsby below.
Making a great movie out of a great book is never easy. So many things can go wrong, from the tones matching up correctly to the actors to the accurate portrayals of the characters. As important as these elements are, the most important part of a page-to-screen adaptation is the story. If the story in the film doesn’t follow the story in the book, then the film can be a piece of garbage. If you don’t believe me, then read the first three Cirque Du Freak novels and then see the movie.
However, when the translation is done correctly, the film can be great. The Great Gatsby is an example of this. I read the book in 11th grade and was extremely impressed by it. Then I watched the adaptation from 1974 (with Robert Redford and a supremely miscast Mia Farrow), and was extremely angered. The film was slow-moving (a-la Mystic River), the actors didn’t portray any emotion, and there was not a tone to speak of: Just a bunch of people moving around and talking to each other. Along with all of this, the element that had me boiling the most was Mia Farrow’s portrayal of Daisy. She played her like a moronic drunk, while the character in the book was vivacious and full of life. To shorten it up, Farrow’s Daisy was like Bella Swan in another body. When I saw the trailer for this adaptation (which looked much more updated and true to the book), my hopes flew up like a kite. The cast was great, the music sounded nice, and the visuals (both computer-generated and not) were lavishing.
For those who have not read the book, the film follows Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire, you know where he’s from), a man living in 1922 New York, land of the party, drink, and drugs. He keeps his opinions to himself (narrating them to us throughout the film) as he goes about his daily life. In his life are the wealthy Buchanans , his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton, Warrior, and Carey Mulligan, An Education), and Daisy’s friend Jordan (Elizabeth Debicki), an attractive tennis player. Nick also happens to be neighbors with the mysterious (and also very wealthy) Jay Gatsby (A stunning Leonardo Dicaprio), a man shrouded in rumor and never seen by the public.
Gatsby throws parties that make Project X look like the birthday party of a small child. People from far and wide come to this event so they can drink, smoke, and party till they drop. One night, Nick receives an invitation from Gatsby to the party. He accepts, not knowing how his life will change from that. When the two meet, Nick discovers Gatsby has a thing for Daisy, and is thrust into a world of secrets, intrigue, and lies that will end in a way that no one could have ever imagined.
The Great Gatsby is incredible. The visuals are top-notch, the acting is fantastic, and the portrayals of the characters are straight out of F. Scott Fitzgeralds’ book. The film grabs you right from the elegant-looking black and white opening credits until the final shot. No offense to Robert Redford, but I personally thought that Leo Dicaprio captured more of Gatsby’s essence. He’s always an actor playing a role, but Dicaprio gives his all and it works very well. I must also give praise to Maguire for taking such a big career risk with this film: it’s unlike anything he’s ever done before (that I know of). He fits right into Carraway’s shoes and is believable all the way through. Carey Mulligan also surprised me with her portrayal of Daisy. I’m not her biggest fan (the only other movie I saw her in was Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), but I am now interested to see An Education (which received a large amount of critical acclaim) to see more of her. Edgerton makes Tom one of those horrible characters you just love to hate, like Pete on Mad Men; he is evil in everything he does and doesn’t care about anyone else.
If you have read the book, then I highly suggest seeing this movie, for it follows the book very closely. Even if you haven’t read it, it’s still an exceptional film that should gain some Oscar buzz.
Rated PG-13 for Some Violent Images, Sexual Content, Smoking, Partying, and Brief Language