The Great Gatsby (2013)
Apparently The Great Gatsby was my dearly departed friend’s favourite film, which is weird because I always thought it was Backdoor Sluts vol. 5. He loved a bit of grot (to use his parlance).
The Great Gatsby is, like all Bazzy L films, lavish, theatrical, sweeping, swooshy and almost distractingly glitzy. Nobody does wide-eyed innocence better than Tobey Maguire except maybe an early 2000’s Elijah Wood trying to burn his ringpiece. Maguire plays the voice of the story Nick Carraway, a very green writer and Wall Street trader who becomes entranced with his neighbour, the reclusive but enigmatic, filthy rich Jay Gatsby.
Leonardo DiCaprio is superb as Gatsby, owning the screen with a masterclass in physical acting, almost like a stage performance. Bolstering the cast are Jason Clarke, who is lamentably bland as a lead but is convincing here as cuckold George Wilson and Clarke is always going to lose to fellow Aussie, Joel Edgerton in a battle of charisma. Bedsit favourite Carey Mulligan plays Daisey Buchanan, the object of Gatsby's desire, but the wife of Edgerton's Tom.
What I did like is that the story is about friendship and influences, in the most wonderful way. People who make their mark on you without meaning to. It’s rather sweet. Nothing comes for free and Carraway is going to learn that the hard way (that's no spoiler). Luhrmann's panache, F. Scott Fitzgerald's weighty words, committed acting, with vivacious visuals and as much as I like the contemporary blending of rap in with the film, I don’t think any score will beat Romeo + Juliet, combine mostly well.
Here comes the caveat.
The Great Gatsby is a Twentieth Century literary classic, this screen version is a whimsical melodrama set to popular music. None of it feels real, it is detached from the power of the book; a two and a half hour MTV production with CGI which in places looks fantastic but in others just fake. Despite a DiCaprio masterclass and some moving moments, the film feels like a very long advert for the book. Books are boring and don’t have rap, etc.
For all its zeitgeisty update aspirations The Great Gatsby lacks for depth, and feels like gateway literature. “See, books can be fun!”, yeah but that’s a music video I’ve just watched mate. Nothing wrong with that, it just doesn’t move me, I wanted more from it. A perhaps unkind 6/10. No where's my copy of Backdoor Sluts vol 5? Oh yeah I lent it to Matt.
Love and envy, such awful bedfellows. The green eyed monster.