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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on The Great Gatsby

TheGreatGatsbyDirector Baz Luhrmann (Romeo+Juliet, Moulin Rouge) returns with this new visually stunning adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel The Great Gatsby.  In the film, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) recalls the summer he became acquainted with the reclusive millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).  Gatsby throws extravagant parties every weekend at his New York mansion, in the hopes of attracting his long-lost love Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who happens to be Nick’s cousin.  With Nick’s help, Gatsby and Daisy reconnect and raises the suspicions of Daisy’s husband Tom (Joel Edgerton).

The Great Gatsby is one of the few literary adaptations I’ve seen, in which I’ve previously read the source material, since the novel was part of the curriculum in my Grade 11 English class.  I’ve also seen most of the previous 1974 film adaptation, which starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. 

I should probably start off by saying that, for better or for worse, this is very much a Baz Luhrmann film.  There are many elements in the first half of the film, particularly Gatsby’s parties, which seemed like a complete rehash of Moulin Rouge, including the use of modern music that clashed with the 1920s setting.  I’m sure there would be those, who would be expecting a less stylized adaptation of the novel and get turned off by Luhrmann’s trashy MTV style.

Of course, Baz Luhrmann is also known for creating films that start off very light and get progressively darker as they progress.  Anyone familiar with the original novel would know that the story fits Buhrmann’s style to a T.  Once the film was done with the crazy parties, with even crazier costumes, it refocuses on the, somewhat tragic, love story that is at the centre of The Great Gatsby.  Having read the book, I already knew how this was all going to turn out, however I still cared about the characters and hoped for the best.

I thought that Leonardo DiCaprio excelled in his performance as Gatsby, both when he is playing up the playboy persona, complete with his repeated catchphrase “old sport,” and later on when he reveals the persona is a shell for a more vulnerable person.  DiCaprio definitely stands out among a cast you can either give or take.  I thought that Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan were decent enough, though maybe Joel Edgerton was a bit too unlikeable in his antagonistic role of Tom Buchanan.  One interesting bit of casting in the film is Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan as Gatsby’s associate Meyer Wolfsheim.  Anyone who read the novel would know that Wolfsheim is portrayed as very stereotypically Jewish, so I suppose casting an Indian actor in the role would help alleviate the anti-semitic tone of the character (or make it worse, depending on your viewpoint).

Overall, once I was able to get past Baz Luhrmann’s over-stylized nonsense, I thought that The Great Gatsby was overall a decent adaptation of the novel.  That said, Luhrmann’s style is starting to get a bit predictable and boring and I think his next challenge as a director would be to make a film that is totally different to everything he has previously done.  You can only make a career of these MTV-style films for so long.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).