There is nothing worse than going to the cinema to watch a film with a preconceived idea, only because so many friends have told you beforehand their opinion.
Usually, when they set the expectations too high, the movie ends up being not that good. And if it is the opposite case, then you get to enjoy it even more than you would have.
That second case is what happened with The Great Gatsby. Surrounded by people saying that it was a disappointing movie, all that there was left to do was checking if it was true. And the only conclusion is the following: you have to like Baz Luhrmann’s style. If you don’t, you are never going to make it through this film.
It is true that Gatsby seems too long at some points. Some scenes that show parties or just landscapes could be shortened, or even cut. But that is the problem: this kind of scenes are typical of a Luhrmann movie. If you cut them, you cannot recognised him in it. Those long scenes that you wish weren’t there are absolutely necessary to make this film what it is. So close your eyes and enjoy the music.
Music, the other main aspect in Luhrmann’s filmography. If you have seen Moulin Rouge or Romeo + Juliet, you already know that he likes playing with different music styles and different eras. You might get shocked at first when you hear Fergie playing in a 1922 party, or the Crazy in Love melody as Leo DiCaprio wanders around, but Luhrmann is an expert, and it makes the music fit perfectly in the settings.
In the end, music is just another part of The Great Gatsby, because that is what the director does best: blending the score and the visual elements. In fact, it is so important for the narrative that the turning point moment of the film has so background music at all, so that the audience can notice it even more.
And the photography is also a key element of his films: with quick camera movements, we are transported from one place to another, because that is what Luhrmann likes: introducing us to a world of fantasy, his very own version of reality.
Since I have not read the book, I can’t really tell if the plot is faithful to it, but there is a moment where that doesn’t really matter anymore, but there are some notes on the story and the actors worth mentioning:
The acting is good, it really is. But in a film like this, it is a bit difficult to make it stand out from the other elements. I know DiCaprio is a good actor (nobody can argue that), but other things stick with me more: the amazing variety of costumes, the bright colours of the film… other aspects that overshadow DiCaprio and the others.
Besides, Leo doesn’t appear that much, which makes the ending not as shocking: I hadn’t had enough time to get emotionally involved with him. And the same happens with Carey Mulligan, and with basically every character except for Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway. We see the story through his eyes, as a big flashback -a writer/narrator, like Ewan McGregor does in Moulin Rouge, a technique the director apparently loves.
In conclusion, the film is not as bad as your neighbour has told you, but you do have to expect some moments that run long -and that repeat themselves. It still has a couple of light scenes, but the ideal attitude to watch The Great Gatsby is to focus on enjoying the music and the sets. I didn’t get to watch it in 3D, but I have the feeling that it would have make it more entertaining.
In time, The Great Gatsby might become a cult movie. That is exactly what happened with Moulin Rouge: lots of controversy when it was released, and 12 years later you can find devoted fans everywhere (myself included).
OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN THE GREAT GATSBY
The opening credits were quite well designed, evoking the silent films from the 1920s.
Leo DiCaprio will turn 40 next year, and he could still play a 20 year old easily. It is astonishing. If you are not convinced, watch Catch Me If You Can: he was 28 and he was absolutely believable as a 15 year old.
Jay Z acts as the executive producer of the film and its soundtrack, so that gives a clue about the music style (a pretty good job, indeed).
There was a recurring theme throughout the movie that is worth mentioning: as Tobey Maguire’s character is narrating, the words he is writing appear all over the screen.
By the way, if someone is pleased by the budding chemistry between Maguire and DiCaprio, it wasn’t that difficult for them: they have been best friends since they were kids.
SPOILER – Still waiting for a film where DiCaprio’s character is alive by the end of it.
I cannot be the only person in the world who mistakes Carey Mulligan for Michelle Williams.