by Brian Boon
The Great Gatsby is a romance film directed by Australian director, BazLurhmann. It is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald might be a little pleased to have BazLurhmann, the man who has produced critically acclaimed romance movies to produce an adaptation of the classic book. Moreover, the line up for casts is truly impressive especially with the presence of A-list actors, Leonardo Dicaprio and Tobey. The anticipation for the movie increases with the news of Bollywood’s legend, Amitabh Bachchan will be included in the cast. The film was released in cinemas on 10th of May 2013.
Let’s move a few steps back in time. The Great Gatsby has a long winding history from the early days where it was first created in the hands of F. Scott Fitzgerald to its last appearance in cinemas in the year 1974. The book was labelled as a failure after its poor sales in its first publication. It just managed to sell a barely 20,000 in the first year which made Fitzgerald believed that he was a total failure until his death. After World War II, the book was given recognition as one of the Great American Novel. Soon after that, several films followed and as if it was cursed, all of the films were below par. The last one in 1974 was directed horribly and audience were having a hard time to keep their eyes open. The 1974 version starring Robert Redford was unfortunately too boring and sparkled a debate among the public over the worthiness of the Great American Novel. Since then, The Great Gatsby was never mentioned in the entertainment world.
It was a real surprise to see BazLurhmann taking the challenge of adapting the book for his latest film. The Great Gatsby is not an easy story to be adapted perfectly for cinema goers. Most of the cinema goers prefer action, blockbuster movies rather than an adaptation of a classic book. Many of us were left in wonder over Lurhmann’s decision. Will he be another M. Night Shyamalan? Lurhmann must not only be able to retain the classic feel of the book but also have to suit Fitzgerald’s writing style for a cinema way of story telling. It would not be an easy path but if he managed to pull through, Lurhmann could have just broken the ‘curse’ on The Great Gatsby.
The story starts with Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) in a sanitarium with heavy snow fall in the background. It was kinda hilarious when Nick was diagnosed as an alcoholic with great depression which was actually the same as Fitzgerald in his real life. Nick began telling his story, writing them on a book as a part of his treatment. In his flashback, Nick told us of Daisy (Carey Mulligan), his narcissistic cousin and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). There, he met the skinny, lanky golf player Jordan Baker. The name of the mysterious Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) started appearing and the growing curiosity among the audience surged up. When Nick started to get to know Gatsby, he realised all those large parties were just to attract his love, Daisy. Gatsby who knew Nick was Daisy’s cousin, wanted Nick’s help to woo Daisy.
Tobey Maguire isn’t a bad actor. He was doing great when he acted in Spiderman years back but in this film, he was not up to expectations. Casting as a naive Nick Carraway, Tobey was too monotonous and boring. He did not have the look of a childlike, naive Nick. His narrations were lacking of emotions unlike the original Nick Carraway in the book. Besides, he failed to bring a great impact in this film and was an easily forgettable character. On the other hand, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Jay Gatsby was as expected. His appearance as Gatsby was convincing enough especially during the confrontation scene. DiCaprio looked awfully impressive when he first introduced himself to Nick with the fireworks behind and ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ playing in the background.
The plot of Lurhmann’s version of The Great Gatsby was no different from the original story which gives Lurhmann a plus point. It was wonderful for Lurhmann to be loyal to the book unlike many other book adaptations. A great news for Fitzgerald’s fans anyway. The cast, other than Dicaprio and Maguire did well except Carey Mulligan who acted as Daisy Buchanan. Carey managed to pull off the act as a damsel in distress Daisy with her Snow White- like tones but it wasn’t enough to be on par with Dicaprio’s performance as Gatsby. Her character was supposed to be a memorable one but in this film, she was overshadowed by Gatsby. She was not convincing enough to be the girl that made Jay Gatsby fall on knees.
Just like the dazzling, glittery parties of Gatsby, the soundtrack of this film consist of songs written by famous artists such as Jay Z, Beyonce and Lana Del Rey. Sad to say, André 3000 and Beyonce’s cover are not much an eye opener. The song was soulless and not catchy. However, Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful saved the whole soundtrack from falling into the drain. The song fits perfectly with the film as it was questioning whether will love still last when the person is no longer young and beautiful. The song was directly pointed at Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship. Will their love still be the same after their long separation?
The Great Gatsby relies mainly on CGI. From Gatsby’s mansion to the party scenes to the scene at the bridge and Long Island landscape, it was all purely CGI. Undoubtably, The Great Gatsby has more CGI than Transformers. It seems as if everything in the film was just a figment, a dream. Since the beginning of the story, audience are fed with CGI especially for the valley of ashes scene. However the CGI team did rather a good job in that and made the audience wowed over the wonders of graphics. It was an unusual choice for Lurhmann to use 3-D cameras for a drama film. Normally, those cameras would be used in filming action movies. And he paid for the price. The 3-D effects on the thick snow at the background seemed a bit off and looked as if the sanitarium was in a snow globe. The effects were too exaggerating especially when the camera changed its perspective.
In short, The Great Gatsby may not be a hit but it is a really beautiful piece of art when its massive CGI and outstanding casts. It would have been a better film if Lurhmann focused more on the characters’ development rather than sprinkling the whole film with glitters, huge parties and pretty landscape. The film lacks of Lurhmann’s romance magic and it is such a waste that it was not a major motion picture.
Perhaps, the fans should wait for the next adaptation? Not me.