“The Great Gatsby” Review

Friday THE-GREAT-GATSBY-Poster-535x802The Great Gatsby [2013] – ★★★1/2

🚗 Extravagant and “modern”, the classic book adaptation is flawed, but its production design still wows, and Dicaprio’s mysterious turns inject much needed emotion and “substance”.

It is hard to adapt such a beloved American classic as The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. There will be many critics pointing out how a delicate narrative of Fitzgerald cannot be possibly transformed into a film, and how director Baz Luhrmann made his film all too contemporary and overly glamorous. While this criticism is valid to an extent, there are, nevertheless, many good things about this new film version of The Great Gatsby, and the film does not really deserve half the mud thrown at it by critics.

Firstly, the film is true to the novel. The film closely follows the narrative of the novel, with only slight variations and additions. For example, an addition is the fact that, in the film, Nick Carraway tells Gatsby’s story from a psychiatric ward (he is there to treat his alcoholism), something which did not happen in the book. The movie itself is about Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a young man who settles into a modest home on Long Island to work as a bond salesman. While he is there, he renews his acquaintance with his beautiful cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and meets her rich and successful husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton). While at their house he also meets Daisy’s childhood friend, Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) and gets to know Tom’s lover, Myrtle (Isla Fisher). As time passes, Nick becomes more and more interested in his neighbour, one Jay Gatsby, who is living in a great mansion next to him. As Nick’s acquaintance with Gatsby becomes more intimate, he discovers that his neighbour is more mysterious and has deeper connection to his cousin than he has ever dared to believe.

Despite what critics say, The Great Gatsby does have “substance”. Amidst stupefying visual effects, there are instances of emotional and romantic depth. This is especially so regarding the film’s second part, when Luhrmann lets go of his iron grip and lets his actors and the film follow its natural course. The large part of this emotional depth and impression is provided by Leonardo DiCaprio, who impresses in the titular role, and seems to be perfectly cast. While the polished “exterior” of Gatsby seems bulletproof, inside, the man is haunted by deeply felt romantic disappointments and past financial misfortunes. Gatsby’s feelings for Daisy seem genuine in the movie, and DiCaprio displays right amounts of determination and anxiety in his pursuit of a rich girl he once knew. However, his character is also not without touches of arrogance and malice, ruthlessly handling a dodgy business on the side and being unsociable with his guests.


Another great thing about this film is, undoubtedly, its soundtrack. Though criticised as being too modern to go alongside such a classic story set in 1920s, it does have the beat of that decade, and creates the right atmosphere for the film. Some scenes in The Great Gatsby are unbelievably beautiful, and Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful and Florence and the Machine’s Over the Love are just the songs to accompany many romantic scenes between Gatsby and Daisy.

As to the cast, apart from Mulligan, there is clearly a feeling that the cast has been picked with special care and one has a feeling that Tobey Maguire was born to play Nick Carraway, having previously accomplished roles of narrators in various films with success.

Despite its ambition, however, The Great Gatsby is also somewhat inherently flawed. The first half of the film is needlessly rushed, causing a near-headache, as the viewer tries to take-in the sheer delirium of colour, loud music, ridiculous camera shots and annoying multitude of close-ups, whereas the second half of the film is better and the audience can finally “settle into” the film and relax into Luhrmann’s ambitious ride.

The Great Gatsby may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but few can deny that the film is a pure visual delight, as well as being entertaining and even humorous. Its floppy, over-the-top, glittering production may annoy at times, but the faithful-to-the-novel script, fabulous soundtrack, good cast and some great acting all save the day in the end. Given this, the film is not saved by Luhrmann – it is saved in spite of him. 


7 Comments Add yours

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Nice review. A very pretty flick, but doesn’t have much going on underneath the surface.


  2. Good review. Considering the previous versions (Alan Ladd as Gatsby?!), this one follows the book and captures its iconic imagery (kudos to cinematography and production design).


  3. Logan Burd says:

    Great review. I’m glad to see somebody enjoyed Luhrmann’s contemporary adaptation like I did. I thought it was a smart choice to move it into the 21st century, in a way many adaptations are afraid to do.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.