The green light is a beacon of hope, an allegory for Gatsby’s destiny. We all know the classic story told by the remarkable Scott Fitzgerald, but Baz Lurhmann has graced us with his recreation of the beautiful masterpiece that is The Great Gatsby, bringing a contemporary atmosphere mixed with a 1920’s essence. This exceptional film offers us a page to page view of a refined 1920’s themed Vogue magazine, an ideal playlist combining class, elegance, mischief and award worthy acting. But most of all, The Great Gatsby brings something which I have not seen in a film in a long time; true authentic romance combined with drama, regret, curiosity and tragedy.
Unlike many films based on classic novels, Baz Lurhmann has managed to create an almost exact adaption of the book, creating a visual image to the words of the novel. Although many people don’t agree with the extravagant use of colours and the surprisingly contemporary soundtrack, it is these features which allows the story to be modernised and attracts not just fans of the novel but all audiences.
I would be lying if I said there were no flaws, but these flaws are only noticeable if you have studied the book like myself, some characters were missed out but all the crucial ones were still there. It is now safe to say that Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Oscar; he offers an engaging role as a sensitive, desirable and ambitious man. He makes all women wish they had a Gatsby. Even though Carey Mulligan and Elizabeth Debicki were perfectly cast as Daisy and Jordan, it is the male actors that drive this film along. Jason Clarke offered an absolutely mind boggling role as George Wilson, if you asked Scott Fitzgerald to describe exactly what he imagined this character to look and act like, a sketch artist would present Jason Clarke. Another outstanding performance was by Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, even though he isn’t presented as quite such an exaggerated and conflicted character like he is in the original novel, he still succeeds in possessing the various other qualities Fitzgerald gave to him, such as his cocky attitude towards culture and society.
Lurhmann’s wife Catherine Martin designed the costumes which gives the film it’s stylish essence; from the sleek suits to the frills of Daisy’s dress, not only bringing back the 1920’s fashion haven, but turning the film in to a piece of fashion itself. Scott Fitzgerald portrayed the jazz age as seductive and fun, which is also what Baz Luhrmann does through his portrayal of Gatsby’s excessive and luxurious parties. No one seems to know who Gatsby is, they only know of his money, his alcohol, his house and his fireworks. The sparkles and tassels along with the cars and the most beautiful clothes, makes it appear that money is everything you need.
Even though this film is an incredible story, full of rich parties and wonderful mysteries, it is also a film which creates true and engaging emotions. It is one of those rare films that makes your heart yearn for the love which long lost lovers, Gatsby and Daisy share. They face many struggles and problematic complications, but our sympathy lies in Gatsby as he is a gentleman and takes the blame for her mistakes. Gatsby is an ideal man yet faces the true tragedy of the story, it is his qualities that make him The Great Gatsby. It is such an authentic and believable story that you could go so far to say that it could be true. Despite what most other critics say, I think Baz Lurhman’s The Great Gatsby is a mind blowing, rare and fresh film which offers much more than just a story; it offers us a means of escapism from the society we live in today. It’s a visual masterpiece, artistic and stylish, engaging and enjoyable. Unmissable.
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Megan Al-Ghailani (May ’13)
The Great Gatsby stars Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway; a writer who lives next door to a mysterious figure who invites his new neighbour to one of his elaborate parties. However, it is soon evident that this charming host is determined to reunite with an old flame; Daisy, for whom he has been searching for the past five years. Unfortunately, in the meantime Daisy married another man, Tom Buchanan and tensions brew between the two; narrated through the eyes of Nick.
Baz Luhrman has always exhibited a penchant for creating elaborate and beautiful set pieces in his neo-classical moulds of great literate tales; a technique he skilfully mastered in Romeo & Juliet; a futuristic spin with cars, guns and modern technology still retaining Shakespeare’s beautifully crafted script. It’ll come as no surprise then, that The Great Gatsby is filled with spectacular production values; with party set ups which recall Spring Breakers in a 1920s setting. Indeed, some of the choices included won’t work to everyone’s tastes (here the director mixes jazz with hip hop and electronic music) as Lurhmann’s attempts to appeal more to young audiences than anyone by mixing youthful energy and contemporary fashions with old fashioned resources. To me the musical choices often seemed out of place, interesting but not entirely convincing.
Not entirely convincing brings to mind Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as the great man himself; although skilled at juggling both the charming, sophisticated young gent and screaming angry boy, I never got used to him calling everyone “old sport”; an expression repeated more times it seems than the F word in Goodfellas. But what’s truly amazing about a film like this is it’s visual interpretation and one gets lost in the imagery even if the running time is about quarter of an hour too long. Not exactly a great in the scheme of things but great fun at least.
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Paddy Johnson (May ’13)