Director Baz Luhrmann adapts the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby into a visually stunning 3D epic that gets away with style over substance. The Great Gatsby isn’t the greatest adaptation of a novel, but it certainly gets its point across loud and clear, by way of Luhrmann’s extravagant filmmaking style and effective use of 3D. Gatsby doesn’t quite become a masterpiece though, often relying solely on the weight of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s performance to drive the story home whenever key players like Tobey Macguire fail to amaze. Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a visual treat and one worth the 3D surcharge, but as an adaptation it feels like a lopsided endeavor that captures the style and energy, but not exactly the heart and soul.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Macguire) is a rather basic individual that has tried his luck in just about everything. He calls himself a writer, but he really just scribbles in his free time whenever he’s not attempting to get involved with stocks and bonds over on Wall Street. He lives in a respectable home, but is constantly drawn to the rich and glamorous life of his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
The more he discovers about Gatsby the more he gets sucked into a world of lies and despair. The big parties and luxurious events act only as a blanket for Mr. Gatsby and the rest of the unlikable characters that fill this film. Alcohol, infidelity and the inability to learn from the past and move forward all tie heavily into The Great Gatsby and on paper the story is a timeless classic that has been deemed one of the most important American novels of all time, while on film it’s nothing more than an impressive piece of work from a director that has made a name for himself creating stylish and grand films.
Baz Luhrmann directs The Great Gatsby with an enormous amount of visual flair and energy. He’s constantly filling the film full of his usual camera techniques, which consist of lots of in-your-face craziness that perfectly captures the wild mood of the parties. Luhrmann knows how to shoot big and grand and he brings every trick up his sleeve to the table. This helps the film become something unique right off the bat.
Gatsby has no troubles getting started from a visual standpoint, but it does have a problem with its characters, more specifically Nick. See, Nick isn’t all that interesting at the beginning of the film and if I’m being honest Tobey Macguire never really makes the character interesting down the road either. He’s set on auto-pilot and simply re-reads words from F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s text, without ever really understanding them.
Luhrmann tries covering this up by injecting the film with lots of 3D photography that reminds us why it’s sometimes okay to pay the three dollars for the upgrade, but not even the great Baz Luhrmann can make a film stick with his visuals if there’s no substance to be found within the characters.
Nothing about The Great Gatsby is interesting until Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan come on the screen. I understand that the book picks up speed at that point too, but at least it was a great read up until and after that point. The film is all style and absolutely no substance until Daisy and Gatsby meet.
Suddenly the film explodes into a grand romance that’s well-filmed AND well-acted. Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan don’t just steal the show, but they also make the movie much more watchable when compared to anything with Tobey Macguire in it. It’s not that Macguire is a bad actor, but he certainly was the wrong choice for such a pivotal character.
Luhrmann kicks the film into high gear once DiCaprio and Mulligan show up, elevating The Great Gatsby from one level to the next. It’s such a gorgeous film to look at. Every single scene benefits from the use of 3D and the interesting soundtrack choices definitely give it modern, yet fitting vibe. The more traditional score is also great in long stretches.
The Great Gatsby remains mostly faithful to the book, which means fans will more than likely eat this adaptation up. Luhrmann directs the film with enough punch to keep your eyes busy for most of the running time, but the film does have its rough spots. The beginning almost proves to be too much Luhrmann at one point, but he does pull back at just the right moment, saving the film from going completely overboard.
The rest of the film steadily balances Luhrmann’s unique eye with Fitzgerald’s story, occasionally sparking bright lights of talent whenever DiCaprio or Mulligan are interacting, but mostly settling for average performances across the board from Tobey Macguire and Joel Edgerton.
If you’re going to see the film then make sure to check it out in 3D, because that is the only way that one can fully experience it. I’m not looking forward to watching it again in 2D or even at home on my television screen, because Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is very much an event film that must be seen on the biggest and brightest screen in the proper presentation format that it was intended to be watched in.
The Great Gatsby – 8/10