johnlink ranks THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

I’m behind on my major movies, as usual. I’ve been sitting on GREAT GATSBY for awhile, but my aversion to Baz Luhrmann as a Director has kept me off of it since it hit Blu Ray half a year ago. Finally got to see it last night, though. Overall, I am happy that I did.


I watched THE GREAT GATSBY (2013) on 8.1.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

The first 45 minutes of this movie are fairly terrible. There is a lot of Baz Luhrmann at his Directing worst. Sure, the colors look great. Sure, the characters pop off the screen. But there is aclear sense of style over substance made worse by the fact that we’re supposed to care about these people that the movie makes out to be shallow.

The way Luhrmann approaches the film is smart. Based, of course, on the famous F Scott Fitzgerald novel, the movie works as a story being told by a narrator named Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). He retells his meeting of a man he considers ‘great’, J Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby pursues Nick’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). Unfortunately, Daisy is already married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) who is having an affair of his own with Myrtle (Isla Fisher).

Basically, we have a group of people who are rich and a group of people who are pretending to be rich. Much is made of status, and where people belong. The visual landscape that Luhrmann creates is rich, with exaggerated colors highlighting extravagance and blacks and grays overtaking the poorer part of 1920s New York City. There is not much subtlety at all in the visuals. This extends to the characters for much of the movie as well. So, when the entire love story turns on something as simple as a man becoming too angry, some of the nuance in character is lost because the entirety of the film has bombarded us with nothing but large choices.

Luhrmann is making a non-musical with musical sensibilities. Where a musical will break into a song which shatters the fourth wall and attacks concepts of the ‘illusion of reality’, Luhrmann does the same with modern choices in his soundtrack or with a modern dance in a 1920s party. He has made a successful career out of this aesthetic, and it is one I respect but do not particularly enjoy. The entire first act of this film is filled with that sort of excess. Once this movie settles down into being about its characters, featuring some surprisingly long scenes of character development and dialogue, the movie improves greatly.


DiCpario does just fine, even if this is not a top ten role in his career. Mulligan is solid and Edgerton is wonderfully sinister. Fisher is mostly wasted, and Maguire is effective. The rest of the acting is pretty good, even if it is still hard to hear Tobey Maguire do extensive narrating and not think of SPIDER-MAN. His boyish expressions work for the grandeur of the film.

It could even be said that, since this is a story told from his point of view, the excessive visualization is all from the mind of his character Nick. There is no need for realism in imagery because Nick’s mind has detached his memories from reality anyway. You can try and sell me this argument, up until the point of people listening to rap music as they drive across a bridge in 1920s New York. Nick is not retelling the story from his perspective from modern times, but a mere few years after experiencing them. The excess, then, is all Luhrman’s and not a characteristic of Nick’s perception. That’s why, ultimately, this is another example of Directorial Masturbation at its most obvious. The choices the filmmaker makes are about satisfying his aesthetic, even if it is only coincidentally related to the story he is telling. This aesthetic fits THE GREAT GATSBY much better than it fit, say, ROMEO & JULIET. But THE GREAT GATSBY will remain a movie which does not quite work, even if many of the building blocks are in place.



The bonus point is for the beautiful colorization. Even if you might question its purpose, you won’t question its beauty.

4+7+7+7+1= 26

FINAL SCORE: 6.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on August 2, 2014.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)”

  1. Agreed that this flick doesn’t really work, no matter of the quality of acting, and that principle blame goes to the director. He mucks things up, as they say.

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