Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is the type of film Kanye West would have always just playing on repeat in the background of his mansion. It’s lavish, lush, includes indulgences in fine cars, clothing, buildings and wealth in general, and Jay-Z executive produced the score. Yes, much of the film is surface level schlock and glamour, did I mention it’s in 3D as well, but it’s certainly an interesting and diverse take to such a literary stalwart and classic piece of fiction. Hearing a few years back that they were going to make a 3D version of “Gatsby” sounded like an April fools joke, or some kind of funny or die sketch that wasn’t very funny. Indeed, Luhrmann is the king of pomp and fancy, the Michael Bay of extravagant love stories if you will, and god bless him he went all out.
It’s almost like a certain aversion to the original piece, just like how Gus Van Sant drastically remade Psycho by… remaking it shot for shot. I don’t mean to imply that Luhrmann’s hates the novel, quite the opposite, but I don’t think he cares for the respect and panache that these pieces hold that they always have to be adapted in a specific strict and serious way. Luhrmann maintains the core tenants of the novel, the themes and overall message, but does so in a way that pokes around the canon of the novel and introduces a flair that can and is hokey and exploitative at times, but as well as outlining the almost alien world these characters are living in.
The Jay-Z scripted soundtrack is a little jarring at first, but it seemingly tones down as the film goes along. If I recall there’s really only a couple direct Hova hits that they play, quite early at that, and the rest of the film is current popish stuff, but not entirely rap and hip-hop as it might seem at the outset. I never thought I’d hear Jay’s seminal classic “Izzo” in an F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation, but here we are.
The acting is uniformly good, with no real weak link that could have easily sunk a so-so movie to begin with. DiCaprio pretty much perfectly embodies Gatsby in his prominence and look as this rich playboy, but with that vulnerability and seething tension lurking underneath. There is always a violent DiCaprio outburst out of nowhere in every one of his movies, so why should this one be any different. I haven’t seen Tobey Maguire in awhile, and he’s fine if not afforded all that much to do, but does well as the connective tissue between the the audience and the characters he encounters. Carey Mulligan is mostly up to the task if not seeming a little vapid at times. Joel Edgerton might steal the show at parts, being equally up to going toe-to-toe with DiCaprio and fully embodies the arrogant energy of his character. Jason Clarke is also good in his, like, three scenes, not really worth mentioning, but Jason Clarke is awesome and should be in everything, so I’m mentioning him.
I don’t recall the 3D really wowing me, that’s not a slight or compliment either way, and honestly seemed pretty cohesive into the colourfulness and “popping out” nature of the colours and structures that it never stood out in an obvious way. I guess that’s compliment towards what 3D should be doing in these films, just simply outlining and broadening features already on screen, not creating it’s own narrative and distractions that take you out of the film. Overall, the look of the film is very refined and simultaneously modern and classic at the same time, a direction that worked for me as long as you’re smart enough to separate the two and not take everything so seriously.
Also, DiCaprio wears a pretty slick sweater for a few scenes, so be on the lookout for that.