The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, stars Leonard DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby.
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The Great Gatsby
Dir: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan,
Toby Maguire, and Joel Edgerton
Visual extravagance distracts Great Gatsby audience
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 5/15/2013
The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a work of literary art that is open to constant adaptation because of the timeless quality of the themes represented. Baz Luhrmann, very much established for the opulence needed for Gatsby’s grandeur, bombards the film with style and design. While there are times when the beauty of Fitzgerald’s words and intriguing characters are visualized with stunning effect, there are also times when the extravagant rendering distracts from the substance and performance found in the characters.
Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) is a Midwesterner looking for a piece of the American dream. He is drawn into the lavish and hedonistic lifestyle of his Long Island neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby throws raucous weekend parties with a house full of strangers. Gatsby invites Nick to join his gala, though he has the ulterior motive of meeting Nick’s married cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) whom he had a relationship with in the past.
Luhrmann is somewhat disjointed early on with the choices in the films design intention. The cinematography journeys through Gatsby’s party like a rollercoaster and the colors saturate in glaring form. While this isn’t always a bad thing, in fact at times it’s quite interesting, it overwhelms the introduction of the characters. As the film progresses, the tone settles into a rhythm and the flash and spark is matched by the emergence of the superb character attributes found within the pages of the book. In particular a late scene that allows the characters to truly come to life; watch as Gatsby’s desperate persona takes hold in the mannerisms of DiCaprio who has aged enough to give Gatsby a life battered feature, it shows what he is capable of doing within a carefully crafted character.
DiCaprio is good as the complicated and lost Gatsby, while Mulligan offers an equally complex substance to the love bemused Daisy. Together their chemistry is absorbing. Toby Maguire, somewhat unusual in the role, captures the idolizing personality of Nick. He is influenced as much by his American dream as he is by the charm of Gatsby. Joel Edgerton gives Tom Buchanan the indulgent and egotistical characteristics with confident repulsion. While some of the voice accents feel overdone it blends well enough into the time period portrayed.
The soundtrack is interesting; sometimes really good and other times misplaced. Upon entrance into New York City a popular Jay-Z song leads a moving image of supposed luxury, the song utilized is distracting because of the familiarity. While another song is mixed in the hands of a soulful songstress, in a bustling jazz club, and it feels perfect for the scene. As the design of the film calms and the characters begin to lead the film forward, the composition becomes more traditional and reminiscent of the time period.
For those that haven’t read The Great Gatsby, the film will more than likely be an enjoyable experience. For those fond of the seminal work, the film will lack the superb quality of the novel, but fans will still be interested in comparing the adaptation to the source. The film displays captivating performances along with scenes that will be a visual treat. Regrettably the overwhelming chaos of style consumes a majority of the film and lessens the otherwise impactful moments achieved by Fitzgerald’s story.