On my most anticipated list I made a week ago, The Great Gatsby came in at #6; a pretty high number in the context of a stellar looking summer. Did it measure up to my anticipation? Yes! and No. Let me explain.
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book that every high schooler was (supposed) to read is the source material of this lavish look of the Roaring Twenties and one tragic mythical figure who symbolized the flapper decade. The title’s namesake (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a mysterious millionaire who throws these extraordinary parties, but remains like Oz behind the curtains as an observer. No one knows or questions his intents of this party, they just care to have a good time. Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves in next to Gatsby, becomes entrenched in the rambunctious lifestyle of New York. He’s taken the interest of Gatsby and is used by him to get to the girl across the water, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), the wife of the rich Tom Buchanan and has a short past with Gatsby. From there the conflict is set: Gatsby is desperate to take Daisy just as he had before.
Now, I don’t know the source material so I can’t compare to what it was supposed to be, all I know what it is. Director Baz Lurhmann is infamous for his stylized flair, and I’m a fan of it. Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge are favorites of mine for their style and stories. It seemed like he restrained himself of his natural tendencies rather than going fully overboard. This helped and didn’t help it. There are some moments of style, but none that were too over-the-top. The cinematography had shine to it and everyone seemed dressed and make-upped perfectly. But it seemed that the setting was forced, artificial and lacked authenticity; it was merely backdrop for the characters to live in.
As for the performances and how they meshed with the world Lurhmann creates. The characters were unlikable as they should have been because of their choices that we might not have made as an audience. But the way they were portrayed were as fake as the backdrop, except for Gatsby, I feel. Their performances didn’t rise above ones you might find in a theater (where the performances have to be exaggerated) or a daytime soap opera melodrama. On the other hand, DiCaprio had these different sides of his character that he portrayed perfectly. When he was nervous, he was believably nervous. When he was angry, he was believably angry. Bravo.
Lurhmann’s forte is forbidden love, which Gatsby fits in well with the his former efforts. But if you’re familiar with those, you will notice those carbon copies that come off as self rip-offs. But hey, if he’s good at it, why not?
In all, it was a worthwhile movie; it looked great and DiCaprio made it worthy for a watch. It didn’t blow me away, but it didn’t piss me off either. It didn’t evoke the emotion it wanted to, but didn’t leave me feeling hallow when I left the theater either. It’s a middle of the road movie, could have been better and worse at the same time.