“Anyhow he gives large parties…and I like large parties. They’re so intimate.” As said by Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby
This is just how I felt watching Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. You can always rely on Baz to give us something large, to make us feel like we are actually at his big party and to dare us to have a very personal, intimate response to the story and its characters. And I like it.
I have read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel a handful of times and seen Mia Farrow’s Daisy captivate Robert Redford’s Gatsby on screen many times.
Compared to the 1974 film, Luhrmann’s version fills in more of the blanks in the story, perhaps making it more accessible to a global audience and to those who may not have read the book. For example the use of sweeping panoramic shots travelling across bays and landscapes helps us to locate and understand the distances between Long Island and New York City, while dramatic historical flashback scenes flesh out this Gatsby’s story.
The acting wasn’t without fault, but I haven’t been a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio since his last film with Baz, Romeo + Juliet. Leo’s baby face has always made it hard for me to take him seriously in adult roles, yet in this film he looks much older that the character’s 32 years.
For the most part Carey Mulligan is appropriately vapid as Daisy, a Venus and a vixen who manipulates and is manipulated at every turn. Poor Daisy can’t win, but she is hardly an innocent and certainly not a ‘beautiful little fool’.
I loved Tobey Maguire and thought he had just enough quirk to suit what is a Nick Carraway with a greater sense of depth and mirth than I ever imagined was present in the text. Some of his scenes – such as the afternoon tea where Jay and Daisy meet – have the comedy amped up so high that they verge on slapstick.
The design and costumes were impeccable as expected. I know I take Catherine Martin’s skill for granted, so I want to recognise her epic effort and attention to detail. I’ve always been obsessed with cloche hats. Yes, I am aware this is strange addiction, but a girl can’t control what tickles her fancy. I certainly got my fill of fabulous headwear in this film.
Gorgeous Tiffany & Co. gems were gratuitously flaunted as a key element of the glamorous depiction of flapper fashion, but this was also indicative of the huge marketing machine shadowing this production. I mean we have been talking about this film for a couple of years now, ogling over leaked photos from the Sydney set during filming, being disappointed by a delayed release date and now-at last-it is here for our amusement. As a case study on how to promote a movie, this one has certainly set a lofty benchmark.
I loved the use of modern music magically blended to suit the 1920s styling and I highly recommend the soundtrack – which I am playing as I write this. There are some great surprises (like Beyoncé singing Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black) and memorable melodies (Lana Del Ray’s Young and Beautiful) from some of the greatest contemporary artists. Special mention to Gotye’s Heart’s a Mess which perfectly suits the subject matter and is inventive in its sound.
Watching this new Gatsby made me wish I could experience the story for the first time all over again through Baz’s eyes. Yet this is a film I’m sure I will view over and over again, always seeing something new in this tale filled with glitz and grit, where the going is good and life is grand – until the rot sets in.
Loved your party, Baz. Thanks for the invitation.
Have you seen The Great Gatsby? What did you think?