Film Review: The Great Gatsby

the great gatsby   leonardo dicaprio Film Review:  The Great Gatsby

I wanted to like The Great Gatsby, really I did. Although being familiar with director Baz Luhrman’s prior work with Leonardo di Caprio, namely the updated and stylized version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I sort of had a sinking feeling Gatsby would strike a similar note… and it did.

I found many aspects of the film to be reminiscent of Luhrman’s Shakespeare adaptation: the over the top circus atmosphere in the party scenes, his penchant for hundreds of lit candles around the set, the love affair with di Caprio’s face…  (The guy has so many extreme close-ups in this film I think I now know every wrinkle by heart).

Much like Romeo & Juliet, the characters are more of caricatures. The problem here is that it’s hard for a drama to make the intended impact when the audience can’t take the characters seriously to begin with. While it was Fitzgerald’s intention to make a dramatic impact (anyone who has read the book knows this to be true), I’m just not so sure if it was Luhrman’s.

It was as if Luhrman bit off more than he could chew with this film. So much time was spent trying to dazzle the audience with set design and such, that he was constantly having to rush in with the narration to bring the audience up to speed instead of letting the action tell the story. Don’t get me wrong, I love a mind-blowing backdrop and there were some gorgeous sets in this film.

Of course, di Caprio’s acting has the ability to transcend these types of obstacles and does so in this film just as it did in R&J. He pulls you in, makes you feel for the character, that much was achieved. Tobey Macguire’s narration, on the other hand, seemed to explain too much. While I do appreciate the inclusion of Fitzgerald’s actual words from the novel, there were too many points throughout this film that I was struck with a feeling that scenes or dialogue were too obvious and even unnecessary.

Somewhere between conception and execution, The Great Gatsby gets lost. I mean I get where Luhrman was trying to go, I just don’t think he quite makes it there. Rating:  C+

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