Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Running Time: 2 hours, 23 minutes
Rating: PG-13

I had been itching to see this film since it got pushed back from its Winter 2012 release date. The day finally arrived. This is quintessential Baz Luhrmann, for fans of “Moulin Rouge” and “Romeo + Juliet,” like myself, and my friends out there who get weak in the knees for Leo, you will not be disappointed. The 1974 production and Baz's take are quite different, and I prefer Luhrmann’s film. It’s visually stunning with thoughtful casting (for the most part), and the costumes, cars and hairstyles transport you back to the roaring ‘20s.

We spend a lot of time with Tobey Maguire as our trustworthy narrator Nick Carraway. (“Brothers” totally changed my opinion of Maguire – rent it as SOON as you finish reading this if you haven’t seen it.) Nick’s narration takes a new route: we hear the story as a flashback while Nick is in a rehabilitation clinic. And the tale begins.

This is how we want to see Leo – not in "J. Edgar" or "DjangoUnchained" (though he nailed both roles). Sadly, though, this is the second Baz Luhmann film that Leo dies at the end of. I found him more believable as the tortured Gatsby than Robert Redford in the original film. We don’t trust Gatsby, though we are easily mesmerized by him.
Photo courtesy of Cineplex

Carey Mulligan easily transforms into Daisy, and is thankfully not nearly as manic as Mia Farrow’s interpretation of the character. Joel Edgerton plays her brute of a husband, Tom, and is much harder than 1974’s Bruce Dern. I had a problem finding any sympathy for him, even at the end when he begs her to remember a time when she loved him. This is due in part to the fact that Luhrmann omitted a crucial monologue delivered by Tom’s mistress, Myrtle. In the 1974 film, we get a peek into Tom and Myrtle’s illicit affair, and she describes how they met, and how much she cares for him. I missed that here. As Myrtle, Isla Fisher was fine, but didn’t make a huge impact.

My heart melted a few times, once in particular when a little miniature schnauzer popped onscreen. (RIP my little schnauzer, Gretchen Peedwix Clark!) We also don’t see Daisy and Tom’s daughter until the final scene, while she had a bit of a larger role in the original film.

I love Flux Pavillion and the like (a little more than I want to admit), but I didn’t enjoy the hip-hop and dubstep "score" like I was hoping. My movie companion said she enjoyed it more than she was expecting. A tisket, a tasket. The party scenes are SO Baz – the close-ups on the musicians and alternating between fast and slow-motion shots echo “Moulin Rouge” and “R+J.”

The film has fallen victim to mixed reviews, but I loved it because I love Baz, Leo, Tobey and Carey. For those of you who don’t enjoy stylized films and who don’t think a classic book should be translated to the screen (and into a stylized film nonetheless) will have problems with it. Give it a chance though – you won’t get bored. Luhrmann and co. “repeat the past” pretty well here.

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