The Great Gatsby Review

The Great Gatsby

After all the waiting, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby finally hits the big screen this week.

And, rather aptly, it’s a bit of a car crash.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the Gats, this is a story about love and excess.

We begin in a place I’ll no doubt end up in, as a man in a safe room recalls his guilty past to a psychiatrist in one of those comforting white coats.

This is Nick Carraway, an out of sorts writer and a friend to the mysterious Jay Gatsby.

More commonly known as Great to the lay-folk.

Nick moved to the lush looking Long Island town of West Egg when he started his new non-writing job last summer, and almost immediately started to hear about this great neighbour of his.

Infamous for the lavish parties thrown at his ridiculous mansion, Gatsby is also a fellow shrouded in mystery.

You see old sport, no one’s ever actually met him.

But Nick has received a personal invitation from the Gats himself and, like any self-respecting writer, wants to get to the truth of this Gatsby.

Not to mention why said sport’s so interested in getting to know Nick.

Perhaps it’s got something to do with that delicate cousin of his Daisy Buchanan, and her less than delicate husband Tom.

When a director like Luhrmann gets his hands on a text like F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, with a budget to Charleston for, it’s hard not to get excited about what madness he’ll come up with.

And for the first hour or so of the Australian auteur’s new film, madness is the only word on my tongue.

Despite staying sort of true to the original source material, it’s as if Luhrmann hasn’t got any of it.

Everything is played so outrageously big during this first act, with incredibly lavish party scenes, ridiculously over the top characters and plenty of motion sickness panning shots swooping in and out of the heavily green screened environs Luhrmann’s created.

Worst of all is the supremely flamboyant introduction of the supposedly mysterious and elusive Jay Gatsby to a clarion call of glitter cannons, whooping sirens and fireworks overhead.

It’s the complete antithesis of the Gatsby from Fitzgerald’s book, and I just do not get what in prohibition’s name old Baz was trying to do here with his unintentionally hilarious take.

But the strangest thing is this; once this insanely over the top first hour is up, The Great Gatsby switches to a faithful incarnation of the novel.

It’d almost make more sense if Luhrmann had committed to his ludicrous vision of Fitzgerald’s classic text all the way through, but instead it feels like he or the studio got cold feet half way through and decided to play it straight there after.

The result is schizophrenic to say the least, but at least this spirit fits with Jay-Z’s god awful bass driven take on some 1920’s style music.

And whilst the cast looks great on paper for their respective roles, somehow it just doesn’t work.

Old Spiderman Tobey Maguire is lost as the film’s narrator Nick Carraway, Joel Edgerton is wasted as one dimensional shouty man Tom Buchanan while Carey Mulligan is sweet, vulnerable yet also forgettable as Daisy.

And then there’s Leonardo DiCaprio as the great Jay Gatsby himself.

The boy who went down with the titanic rarely makes a false move these days, but even he can’t stop Luhrmann’s ship from falling under the waves of its own opulent hype.

The Great Gatsby is not a good film, and anyone who’s read the book will be doubly disappointed by this, yet it’s still one of those event movies you’ll want to see on the big screen just to say you have.

Thought don’t say I didn’t warn you about that car crash old sport.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

May 2013