Ignoring the fact that Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest works of fiction ever produced, and forgetting that I’ve loved every Leonardo DiCaprio film I’ve ever seen, I walked into Baz Luhrmann’s latest with a bit of trepidation. Last week mixed reviews poured in – with critics condemning the tailoring for 3D, the drawn-out plot, and the absence of on-screen chemistry between Leo and leading lady Carey Mulligan. With years of hype (I was excited back with the film was slated for a Christmas 2012 release), I thought perhaps I was setting myself up for disappointment.
But I wasn’t. Not in the slightest.
Overall the film was fantastic. Perfect, no, but fantastic. The acting was impressive, the movie held true to the novel, and provided a short jaunt into the height of the roaring 20s. Perhaps the single greatest achievement of the film was the internal struggle portrayed by Mulligan’s Daisy. Through flashbacks to Daisy’s youth and betrothal to antagonist Tom Buchanan, the audience is able to empathize with her in a way I never could from the book (at least until the end of the film).
I also appreciated how the entire narration came to be, with a disenchanted Carraway (Tobey Maguire) scribbling and typing the story from the tower of a lakeside sanitarium. Another area of concern for me was integration of the fairly modern soundtrack into a period film, and it worked flawlessly. Jay-Z brought together an impressive array of musicians for clever remakes, jazz-era transition pieces, and powerful ballads, most notably from Florence + the Machine and Lana Del Rey.
The camera angles, over-the-top scenes, and ornate visuals are reminiscent of Moulin Rouge, and were somewhat expected, in the same way I expect Tim Burton to feature Johnny Depp. I will agree with those who think the film catered too much to the 3D element. Having watched the movie in 2D, it was obvious I was missing out, but it didn’t seem to be anything necessary. Text overlay and a superfluous use of snow seemed to be the only real use of the technology, but just because we can make a 3D film doesn’t mean we should. I did think it took away from the experience a bit, but not powerfully enough to influence my overall opinion.
My Rating – A (it might be an A+ once I see the 3D effects, but for now it’s a solid must-see)