#WeReviewHard: The Great Gatsby
When we all were first being inundated with advertising for The Great Gatsby I found myself making internal promises to re-read the classic novel so that I could walk into the movie fully Gatsby’ed; ready for Leonardo DiCaprio to act at my face. I’d been assigned the book as a child but due to a healthy dose of ADD and the proliferation of shiny things I have no memory of it. So when I walked into Gatsby I was judging it not from the benchmark of the book but simply by what was being presented on the screen.
The Great Gatsby stars Toby Maguire as Nick Carraway, a Yale Graduate, aspiring writer and bond salesman. Carraway’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) is currently married to old money (Joel Edgerton) and lives across the bay from him in Long Island. Directly next to Carraway’s modest house is a magnificent mansion owned by Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) where lavish parties are thrown every weekend and New York’s elite drink and dance on Gatsby’s dime.
All of this is set up in the first 45 minutes or so. A very boring 45 minutes.
Had I not been in a movie theater, locked in for a night of movie magic I would’ve definitely turned the channel or had to try watching it a couple of times before getting through the first portion of the movie. But when the story moves forward and we finally start to find out who the hell Jay Gatsby is and what he’s trying to accomplish; the movie picks up dramatically. Leonardo DiCaprio does a solid job as Jay Gatsby, the mysterious rich, <insert some awesome thing because someone has probably said it about him.> He throws intense Leo glares right and left and it works for the most part – although by the end of the movie I’m fairly sure I never want to hear the phrase “old sport” again.
Gatsby falls into one of my favorite genres of TV/movies: Treacherous White People. Now you may not be familiar with the genre (Netflix hasn’t started grouping things this way but they totally should) but you probably have watched or are currently watching something that qualifies. Mad Men, House Of Cards? #TreacherousWhitePeople. And like other Treacherous White People media, it takes a bit of time to get rolling. But once the movie does and stops throwing Jay Z at my face (he’s an executive producer and “scores” the film. As a Brooklyn boy and lover of hip hop I still found his contributions, well … distracting) you’ll find yourself being drawn in. The underlying story of Gatsby is an understandable if not relatable one.
Director and co-screenwriter Baz Luhrmann, known for his work on Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet throws the visual effects at the screen a lot for no reason. The movie soars not when the 3D (yes, it’s in 3D, WTF?) bells and whistles are jumping around, but when the actors are allowed to simply act. Weird, I know. My wife argued that the effects were to highlight the decadence that was on display but I’ve seen decadence before that didn’t require an effects specialist. I understand this is what Lurhmann does – it’s simply not necessary.
I haven’t said much of Toby Maguire because he doesn’t do much really. He’s the canvas that we stare at to understand Gatsby. He doesn’t interfere with that so he’s fine. Again I must remind you I didn’t remember anything of the book walking into the movie. Some who did noted certain aspects of the story telling they felt was very heavy-handed. In the book where things are implied in the movie we get our hand’s held so that we understand (i.e. beautiful shirts.) The structure of how the story in the movie is told borrows from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s real life and not the book so this might upset some purist. On the We Nerd Hard scale (from best (5 = All of the Lights) to worst (1 = Sam Worthington) This movie ranks a solid 3.
The Great Gatsby opens May 10th, 2013 Staring Toby Maquire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.