Movie Review: “The Great Gatsby” – All That Glitters

Written by Emily McWilliams May 11, 2013

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After delayed releases and what seemed like a never-ending production process, Baz Luhrmann’s vision of “The Great Gatsby” has finally come to theaters.  Now the question is, was it worth the wait?  As expected, Luhrmann brings his extravagant sense of over the top sets and costumes to this adaptation of a tale about American decadence.  As well, a unique soundtrack featuring remixes of well-known pop hits and some new releases from artists like Lana Del Ray make this film an interesting post-modern adaptation of the classic Fitzgerald novel.  Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” is a spectacle in the best way possible, a non-stop ride that still manages to hold on to the integrity of the original novel’s themes.

Chasing the American Dream

For those of you who weren’t forced to read “Gatsby” in high school, Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) is a hopeful man from the mid-west who settles in the village of West Egg, New York.  Nick’s next-door neighbour is Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), an elusive man who throws lavish parties at his mansion every weekend in the hopes that it will attract his long-lost love, Dasiy Buchannan (Carey Mulligan).  Daisy is Nick’s cousin and is married to the brutish,but rich Tom (Joel Edgerton).  Instead of returning to a more innocent time before the war when Daisy and Jay loved each other, Gatsby’s parties and life in the Jazz Age attract the corruption and greed that accompanied this time of prosperity.  “The Great Gatsby” is a complex examination of human nature, our flaws, and ultimately, hope.

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A Stylish Hybrid of Past and Present

Luhrmann’s version of “The Great Gatsby” isn’t a historically accurate representation of the 1920s, as the director uses the era as an inspiration to create an extravagant vision of glitz and glamour with a modern infusion.  While computer generated imagery and shots were heavily used (sometimes to an annoying extent), Luhrmann breaths a distinct style into this adaptation that was essential to engaging a new audience.  With a novel like this that has become so iconic and familiar (and let’s be honest, practically adapted to death with other film and TV versions) Luhrmann needed to set this project apart from the rest, and he succeeds.

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No Room for Interpretation

Just because the film combines modern styles and music, doesn’t mean that the original themes of the novel get lost.  In fact, I would say that this version of “The Great Gatsby” is highly faithful to its original source material – sometimes too faithful.  The one problem with Luhrmann’s “Gatsby” is that it lacks any subtly what so ever, something that the novel was able to achieve in an intelligent and complex manner.  At times, it felt like the character’s lines were taken from the “Coles Notes Edition” of the novel: every symbol, theme, and important plot development is explicitly stated to the audience by a character.  Instead of allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about the story and characters, the film gives you one, and only one possibility, leaving little room for interpretation.

“The Great Gatsby” is both a fantastical reworking of the past, and a tragic tale of the American Dream that still resonates in today’s society.  This big-budget literary adaptation is not your typical summer blockbuster fare, but the costumes, sets, and unique style from director Luhrmann make this film, dare I say, great.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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