Have you seen Baz Luhrman’s latest film? Cormac O’Donnell reviews it for sin.ie…
After a hiatus from directing feature films for almost 5 years, Baz Luhrman returns with his interpretation of that most grandiose of American novels; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
In consideration of his last film, Australia (2008), which was unfocused and lack-lustre, one might presume that Luhrman is setting himself up for a fall with Gatsby. The novel is held in such high esteem and beloved by millions, that Luhrman may have been better of attempting an easier project, whilst getting his feet back on solid ground. This reviewer almost believed that the story belonged completely in novel form, so rich is Fitzgerald’s written word.
Almost. Luhrman’s interpretation fires on all cylinders, blowing the assumptions of this reviewer clear out of the water. Leonardo di Caprio is perfectly cast as Jay Gatsby, the reclusive millionaire who yearns for his past flame Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) to attend one of his lavish parties, in an attempt to rekindle their past love.
Enter Nick Carraway, cousin to Daisy, who is a young bond salesman and wannabe writer. He becomes Gatsby’s neighbour and helps to set them up, whilst embarking on his own voyage of discovery of the hedonistic jazz age of 1920’s New York. The tension is built on the fact that Daisy is married to the equally wealthy Tom, whose favourite pastime is cheating on her with other women, thus driving her into the arms of Gatsby.
A common observation from many critics is that the film supposedly favours style over substance. This is a rather unfair perception. Luhrman displays an almost giddy glee in depicting Gatsby’s famous parties. There are a lot of beautiful people, doing bad things, in a lovely house. No expense is spared for the soul purpose of raising hell – the old fashioned way. However, it may be argued that the glorious, alcohol-soaked, over-the-top parties help reveal the characters for what they really are: emotionally bankrupt.
On one hand the film wallows in materialism, yet this is only to critique the spiritual emptiness of all involved. The characters want for nothing, but are they happy? Baz Luhrman also has a reputation for pop art, flashy visuals as part of his aesthetic. Would you complain aboutt the violence at a Quentin Tarantino film? The form never lessons the emotional substance at the story’s core.
Leonardo di Caprio is now the Jay Gatsby of the cinema. The standard has been set. It’s unfathomable to wonder who else could have played him. With every passing film, he maintains the one-two knockout punch of movie star good looks, and urgent, intense performances.
Each of Gatsby’s nuances come to the fore of Di Caprios’s expression. Nothing is denied. Watching his Gatsby is like witnessing a train wreck. Carey Mulligan as Daisy manages to convey sheer hope whilst being completely lost, whilst Tom Edgerton radiates a believable, growing rage throughout.
My one critique of the film is that it is pointless to see it in 3D. It is a beautiful film to watch in normal 2D.
Baz Luhrman has done that rare thing; taking a beloved literary classic and turning it into a separate wonderful cinema experience. Lose yourself in a good old-fashioned Hollywood story.