The Great Gatsby has gotten some bad reviews, and I get some of the things they are saying. But, all in all, I was not disappointed with the movie, and I’ve been excited for it forever.
First off, it’s a visual movie – it’s two and a half hours of looking at really beautiful things and people (Leo). I watched the regular version, but it’s very obviously shot for 3D. I don’t really get why they would make this movie 3D, but whatever. I don’t fault Baz Luhrmann for taking this approach because he needed to find a way to reinterpret the story. Everyone knows the plot, and you can’t touch it. The 1974 version was a very literal screen translation of the text, so that’s been done. What’s left is making it look and sound different, which is what he did with the music and the visuals.
The one thing that wasn’t a huge fan of in terms of this was that it had some whimsical elements that kind of bothered me. Things like letters coming off pages and floating up into the air, and clouds becoming people’s faces. Get real, Baz; that doesn’t happen.
Gatsby’s house is a huge part of the story and it’s described as a grand palace, which is what it looks like in the movie. In fact it looks like a Disney castle. Even though the style is in keeping with some of the massive mansions you find on Long Island, I liked the house in the old movie better. It was more how I pictured it reading the book – slightly more modest and less intimidating – like Gatsby’s personality. But nothing in the movie is modest; that’s the whole the idea.
Even all the jewelry and some of the props were made by Tiffany’s, and cost thousands of dollars. The production of the movie mirrored the lifestyle it portrayed (they even spent so much money that they ran out and had to move filming to Australia, where Baz is from). But it works because you’re looking at actual excesses of diamonds and pearls and expensive cars and it sucks you in.
The plot was true to the book (but they skipped my favorite line, “her voice is full of money”), except that they have Tobey Maguire narrating the story from a mental institute, and at the end he finishes writing The Great Gatsby, which does not happen in the book. I thought it was a little weird, but I guess it was supposed to darken the story.
Leonardo DiCaprio was perfect as Gatsby, obviously because he’s the best. Carey Mulligan was good as Daisy but I still find her unattractive even drenched in diamonds and designer dresses. Baz just loves pairing Leo with semi-plain looking girls with round noses…
Jay-Z’s influence was also very apparent, not only through his music but by the emphasis put on Black people in the movie. I know Baz (I’m naming my kid Baz) said he wanted a hip-hop influence in the movie, but it was a little odd how there would just be random shots of Black people. Like when a car full of super fancy Black men and women zoom by jamming out to “H to the Izzo.” I think Jay-Z was just like “No, Baz, let me do this. It will be hilarious.” And it was.
The rest of the music worked well in the movie, and I was happy that Lana Del Rey’s song from the soundtrack was sort of the main theme song because it’s my favorite one.
Anyway really long story short, I liked it. The book is one of the most-loved American books ever written so it’s a big undertaking to re-imagine it. This version is loud and fantastical in Moulin-Rouge style. Maybe in 30 years the next version will be more to the critics’ liking.