The Great Gatsby

Writer/Director Baz Luhrmann’s captivating rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby takes you on a ride and never let’s go. It is quite simply a beautiful cinematic picture. I saw it in 3D and the story just popped off of the screen right into my lap. While I prefer the 1974 Robert Redford version written by Francis Ford Coppola, which was filmed in Newport, Rhode Island, this latest incarnation was very well done. A small caveat is that Luhrmann’s adaptation is slightly more style over substance. What the picture lacks in story narrative it most capably makes up for with dazzling cinematography by Simon Duggan. It is a vibrant, brilliantly photographed portrayal, yet highly stylized version of Fitzgerald’s 1925 masterpiece.

While this isn’t necessarily a negative and I thoroughly enjoyed the picture, I thought that Luhrmann was a little heavy handed with his stylistic approach. You sometimes forget the main thrust of this romantic love story because you’re so caught up by the vivid colors and non-stop action bursting and exploding all over the screen. However this also serves to keep the picture from being weighed down by the heavy dramatic moments. After all this is a serious tale about hope, love and loss. Yet, this is a dangerous pitfall that Luhrmann sidesteps masterfully. His practically perfect pacing and attention to detail is superb, right down to the iconic 1920′s costumes altered from the Prada and Miu Miu fashion archives.

Some of my favorite moments were the accurate depiction of the period; the flamboyant Jazz Age, fancy cars, lavish parties, elaborate costumes, ornate and extravagant estates and bleak looking undeveloped geography. Luhrmann does an adequate job of luring us into the story and taking us back in time. That being said I also felt that the Special Effects and CGI made the real ‘imaginary’ world melt away at times and transform into a surreal plastic landscape rendering it as artificial and unbelievable. The original picture kept its drama anchored and rooted within a genuine and realistic context which made the story seem more authentic.

All of the actors seemed to hit their marks with credible and well crafted performances.   Leonardo DiCaprio stepped nicely into Jay Gatsby’s shoes, bringing a compelling intensity to the role. Tobey Maguire was also very good as Nick Carraway. Carey Mulligan brought a subtle sensitivity and was perfectly suited for the Daisy Buchanan role. And I thought that Joel Edgerton had a scene stealing turn as the arrogant Tom Buchanan.

I highly recommend Luhrmann’s Gatsby. It is an entertaining dramatic thrill ride worthy of the price of admission, even in its steeper priced 3D version. I think that Fitzgerald would have enjoyed this adaptation. I would suggest seeing this in the theater rather than waiting for it to come to DVD, PPV or cable. The scope and breadth of this period piece is well worth seeing on the big screen. You can find Baz Luhrmann’s narrated ‘Anatomy of a Scene’ here.

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.

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