Monday, May 13, 2013

Review 160: "The Great Gatsby (2013)"

Inflatable zebra.

Produced by Jay-Z
      One of the most surprising things about the new Great Gatsby movie is how much people wanted to see it. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that that was the case. It's cool that inbetween a summer filled with men in iron suits and people traveling through space an adaptation of a great F. Scott Fitzgerald book is just as highly anticipated. That's great. I just wish the movie was better. This 2013 edition of The Great Gatsby is directed by Baz Lurhmann (Moulin Rouge) and is co-written by him as well, along with Craig Pearce (Charlie St. Cloud). The film follows Nick Carraway (Tobey McGuire, Spider-Man 2), who spends a summer in New York, where he lives next-door to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio, Romeo + Juliet). While attending his parties that summer, he discovers that Gatsby is in love with Daisy (Carey Mulligan, Drive), who is married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton, Warrior), who is having an affair with Myrtle (Isla Fisher, Scooby-Doo), who is married to Wilson (Jason Clarke, Lawless), who knows Tom, but not about the affair. Man, the 1940s were cray-cray!
He's wearing the black suit again.
A Modern Take
      The one thing that Lurhmann does well is his usual style. This does feel like a modern version of the story. The use of modern music, mostly from producer Jay-Z, could have been obnoxious and grating, but instead Lurhmann uses it with strong effect, only pulling it out when he really needs to and showing that the music actually matches quite well with the visuals on-screen. The visuals, which, during the party scenes (Or scene, really) are done great. The main party scene is by far the best part of the movie. The energy is captured great and with the usually strong 3-D effects you get effectively pulled into the party. It also helps that most of the main cast is great. DiCaprio is the perfect Gatsby, playing the characters how many people would imagine him. Same goes for Mulligan, who plays the tricky role of Daisy well. The real scene-stealer though is Edgerton, who's Tom I was actually rooting for by the end.
The Same, Not Different
      Overall though, none of those things can save what is ultimately a pointless movie. I have said this before and I'll say it again, but if you want to adapt anything, especially a book, into a movie then you can't just make a word for word adaptation. Gatsby stick too close to the original source material. Lurhmann, while updating the visual style, does update anything else and what we're left with is a boring and creatively brain-dead film. Lurhmann doesn't present any new thoughts about the story. He doesn't use the modern visuals or music to add any meaning, just add more visual flair. And without anything new to say, the movie is effectively someone just reading the book to you.
      The visual style, which is used to great effect in the party scenes, isn't used as well in the rest of the movie. Lurhmann was forced to tone himself down for the 3-D, which is unfortunate because maybe some wild visuals could have kept me awake during it's excruciatingly long 2 and a half hours runtime. What's even worse though, is the fact that not only does Lurhmann not add anything to the film, he doesn't even seem to understand the book's meanings either. The complex love between Gatsby and Daisy is reduced to standard romance here. Gatsby is the perfect romantic hero, Daisy the perfect romantic object. And a lot of the books main symbols, the green light, the glasses, are here treated as easter eggs in a Marvel movie, knowingly winking to the audience as if to say, "Hey remember this from the book?"
Fun Fact: DiCaprio always has fireworks behind him.
The Verdict
      The result is a movie that doesn't have much reason to exist. If the movie adds nothing to the book and basically just reads the book to you, but without any of the meaning, then why bother with the movie. Sure the acting is strong and the parties are great and the visuals work occasionally. But the movie is just so dull and lifeless that it's really not worth even talking about. It is well-made, but a lot of things are well-made, and are more entertaining and fun. Like a slinky. The Great Gatsby (2013) gets 2 and a half stars out of 6.

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