Review #27 The Great Gatsby (2013)


Directed by- Baz Luhrmann

Starring- Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire

I had to have this book rammed down my throat during my last year at school (I say rammed but I really quite enjoyed it). So, I was vaguely excited to see the movie of a book I had to almost learn off by heart.

Now, I like Baz Luhrmann. I accept that he’s out there and doesn’t do things by halves. Moulin Rouge was not a remake (or not a viable one anyway), and it was weird and wacky and the characters knew all this. Romeo + Juliet, whilst they still spoke as they did in “ye olde times”, was set in modern day, which made it quite unique. Gatsby does not fall into either category. I was really quite disappointed.

A quick summary of the plot then- the story is being told by Nick Carraway, who is in a mental home (he is NOT in the book), and he is talking about his encounters with his neighbor Jay Gatsby, a man who fought in the War and is incredibly wealthy. He holds glamorous parties every weekend and nobody knows his past: “I heard he’s a cousin of the Kaiser” “I heard he’s a professional murderer!” Gatsby’s aim is to attract the attention of Daisy, Nick’s cousin, who lives across the bay from them.

Basically, my issue with this movie is that it’s neither one thing nor the other. It’s bright, colourful, loud, and the party scenes resemble a Beyoncé music video. It felt like this all detracted from the story, dialogue, and characters, which in the book are fantastic. I wasn’t a fan of the soundtrack either; filling the background with Jay-Z didn’t really set the scene, which is vital if you’re trying to re-create the 1920s.

The second half of the movie is much better. It calms down and focuses on the story and relationships between the three main characters, but I think the first part of the film should hook you; it was too late. That said, as Nick narrates, he’s quite faithful to the dialogue from the book, which is beautiful and you can still appreciate it (maybe if you close your eyes…). I also think Tobey Maguire is a good pick for Nick. In the book I found him annoying and pathetic, although I felt a bit like he would suddenly lead a horse out of somewhere or jump around the room whilst the Spiderman theme tune plays… The relationship between Daisy and Gatsby is explored TOO much, in the book they keep their distance and the movie sexes up their relationship.

So, if you’ve read the book, I think it’ll be a major disappointment. If you haven’t, then go read it, and at least you’ll be able to critique the movie like a literary snob. If there was a sequel to the book, I’d say read it. And unfortunately, because of today’s sequel/franchise culture, there’s a likelihood there will be a “The Great Gatsby 2: Gatsby’s Revenge”.

Baz, I’m disappointed. Two and a half stars.