Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby isn’t just a love story; it’s a reflection of how America as a nation has been corrupted by the perversion of money, as was Gatsby and his dream. Following his life as an honest, young soldier, he moves to New York and partakes in criminal activity in the hope of becoming rich to win back his dream girl, Daisy, who was married by time he returned from the war. Whilst the story itself is followed quite accurately, I can’t say much else was well captured.

Now I know Lurhmann's 'thing' is to bring modern life to old time stories, but there's a limit to what one should do and he definitely took it too far. The soundtrack is somewhat overbearing; interferes with the dialogue at times and is littered with ridiculous song choices. This combined with the exaggerated glitz and glamour, constant fireworks and flashing lights, all aids the removal of the class and subtlety that made Gatsby such an easy book to read. By contrast, this film is almost difficult to watch, as it's very much loud and in your face. It does get better as it goes on, but I had to watch it in two parts to reach that quality increase towards the end.

The first 30 minutes or so crawled by painfully as I eagerly awaited Jay Gatsby's first appearance. He is most people's favourite character, and with Di Caprio being cast I still had hope he could turn the entire film around. After some time wading through the sea of guests at Gatsby's mansion, Nick (Maguire) finds himself rattling along to somebody unknown about the host until - shock horror - the unknown man reveals he is none other than Mr Jay Gatsby himself: he raises his glass and smiles his reputable smile, all in slow motion, as Nick's voiceover delivers one of my favourite lines with just the right amount of awe:

"His smile was one of those rare smiles that you may come across 4 or 5 times in life.."

Only this iconic smile had about has much charm as a constipated chimp. Di Caprio's accent also needed a lot more work: although he does a good job with the phrase "old sport," it dangerously toes the line between apt and irritating throughout since they're the only two words he can pronounce convincingly.

With time, Di Caprio seems to settle into the role and you forget everything he did wrong. Once Daisy (Mulligan) comes into the picture and he's reduced from a cool, calm and collected, naturally suave man to an awkward, lovesick boy, his talent truly shines through, allowing us to slowly fall in love with Gatsby and all he represents, just as you do in the book.

There are a few other moments I wish he’d done differently, but it was a satisfactory performance. Maguire has also done a good job of portraying a main character that you can hold little opinion on – I know that sounds like sarcasm, but it’s genuinely spot-on since it's supposed to be all eyes on Gatsby. Nonetheless, once the stage for a film is set incorrectly, there's not much anybody can really do.

Oh, Baz… what have you done? When compared to Romeo and Juliet, one of the greatest adaptations of all time, The Great Gatsby is worth less than a steaming pile of shit. Maybe that’s the problem though; the average film critic cannot simply dismiss Luhrmann’s most notable success and judge Gatsby as an individual piece of work. His name alone raises our expectations by at least 80%, even for those who do happen to consider Gatsby a book too beautifully complete to alter so drastically. 

Prejudice aside, though… if you can watch for what it is rather than what it should’ve been, it might be worth your time.

The Great Gatsby gets a not-so-great 6/10.

Sarah Connor

The Great Gatsby at CeX

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