Finally I managed to see “The Great Gatsby”, I suppose everyone’s seen it by now? Well, if you have no idea, it’s the latest lavish Baz Luhrmann film and an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel.
I’ve even read the book (yes, I read!). I read it when I was working through the BBC’s “Big Read” top 100 books to try and read as many as I could. I can’t say it made much of an impact on me, I think my brain isn’t compatible with acclaimed literature. On the upside, I could watch the film without the burden of expectation, a strong image of how I thought it should look, or judging it against the book as people are prone to doing.
As you’d expect from a Baz Luhrmann film, it was a visual feast. After hooking me with “Moulin Rouge”, I don’t think he can make a small movie. “Australia” was relatively sedate, but the sheer scale of the environment still made it feel like a massive film. In “The Great Gatsby” he crams every inch with vibrant characters, parties and glitter.
Some have drawn parallels to “Moulin Rouge” but I think that must only be down to the anachronistic soundtrack, and covers of songs like Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”, but I think that’s about where it ends. Things do get a little too extravagant at times, with countless whirling shots of the actors in green-screen environments and high-speed zooms over the water and landscape.
I suppose it wouldn’t be a Baz film if he calmed down, but I felt the more engrossing parts of the film were the quiet character-driven scenes, like the reunion between Gatsby and Daisy. There were parts that felt a bit padded, like the constant allusions to behind-the-scenes mystery in Gatsby’s background. But overall it kept my attention, even if I did check my watch several times.
It did look amazing though, colourful and full of energy. I loved the green light on the horizon, one constant reminder of Gatsby’s motives through the movie, accompanied by a shrill piecing note in the score.
The cast did well, I can reel them off – Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan… they all seemed to fit their roles well, I’m oddly a bit lost as to why I think that. I can’t believe that was Isla Fisher as Myrtle though, I knew I recognised her…
Anyway, it’s one of those sorts of films that if you’d made the decision to see it, you’d probably enjoy it. Though it doesn’t really resemble any of Baz Luhrmann’s other blockbusters, you sort of know what you’re getting from him. If anything it looks fantastic, and if the story doesn’t grab you, you’ll be grateful for that.