Review - The Great Gatsby

When I first saw the trailer for The Great Gatsby, I had high hopes. 

It had everything going for it; impressive cast, stylish director and modern soundtrack. So why did it seem as if the film didn't live up to its potential?

I have only ever seen two of Baz Luhrmann's films prior to this, Romeo + Juliet and Australia.  When it came to The Great Gatsby I was hoping for more Romeo + Juliet, as Australia for me was just a giant snooze fest. The end result was a mixture of both films.

Customary to Baz Luhrmann films the visuals are very stylish, not bad when the film is set in one of the more stylish eras in history, 1920s New York. The men look sharp in their suits, the women glamorous in their frocks and the parties are packed full of enough razzle and dazzle that will make you wish you were in the film yourself.

I saw the film in 2D and would honestly say that I don't think seeing the film in 3D would have made much difference to the visuals.

As for the story, I don't think it is the strongest story or the easiest one to portray on screen, and it shows. 

The film follows the narration of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he tells a doctor about the man who had a major impact on his life, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). We don't get to see Gatsby until a while into the film but when we are introduced to him you will understand what I was mentioning earlier about the visual style brought to the screen by Luhrmann.

Carraway tells us of how he moved into a small cottage across the bay from his cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and next door to the lavish mansion belonging to Gatsby.

Gatsby throws huge parties and leaves the doors open for all of New York socialites and Carraway finds himself thrown into wild parties with Tom and his mistress, Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher).

When we finally do get to see Gatsby we start to see the friendship he shares with Carraway develop and the motifs behind all of his actions soon become clear and also a little stalker-like.

Gatsby was a soldier that had a fling with Daisy before he was called to fight in World War One. Five years on and he is back to pick up where he left off. He throws all the parties hoping Daisy will walk through the doors of his mansion and if she doesn't he can see her house just across the bay.

Gatsby and Daisy do eventually meet again and events are set in motion for the rest of the film. There is tragedy and comedy along the way but I just felt that the story was quite weak.

What I enjoyed most about this film was the performance of the cast, DiCaprio in particular standing out. The mystery surrounding his character enables DiCaprio to do more with his role rather than just playing another rich playboy. I am more than certain that an Academy Award is not too far down the road for Leonardo DiCaprio.

The rest of the cast do a good job too but there is one in particular who I just can't take seriously anymore. Tobey Maguire seems to just irritate me ever since watching him dance his dignity away in Spider-Man 3. I will warn you now, there are some scenes where he is seen dancing again. He narrates the film as well which only added to the irritation as I feel his voice is ultimately not suited to narrating a film.

Before the release a big deal had been made about the soundtrack for the film. Jay-Z was on board as executive producer and played a part in selecting the songs that would help bring a classic tale to the modern audience. There are some songs that work such as Crazy in Love being covered by Emeli Sande but I just could not get my head round some of the choice in music, particularly when a Jay-Z song started to play in one particular scene. I just felt the soundtrack was a little too hit and miss.

Overall there is definitely a case of style over substance here and that just may be a trait of Luhrmann as a director but I was ultimately a little disappointed as the ingredients that promised a great film were only mixed together to make just a good film. Girls will no doubt love it but there will be some who, like me, will walk out hoping to have seen a little more.

Verdict: 3/5 


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