The Great Gatsby, dir. Baz Luhrmann (2013)
Gatsby? What Gatsby?
By now most adult Americans, if not most of the literate population, will have heard something about the cherished novel by Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; an emblem of the roaring twenties; an acclaimed timeless capsule of wealth, booze, parties, and romance, none greater than those within the pages of the book. While Baz Luhrmann irrefutably captures the class and jazz of the era in spectacular fashion (and I do mean absolutely gorgeous cinematography and costuming), the uneven narrative adaptation only mediocrely translates into a cinematic effort.
One of the film’s most astonishing flaws is how it manages to simultaneously follow faithfully to its source material and incorporate a bit of creative freedom, yet fail at both aspects. The newly fabricated wraparound story of Nick Carraway in a mental ward, with his omniscient narration throughout the film, left none of the good subtleties and symbolisms implied. Then, when following the passages word for word, the director failed to titillate and imbue a new excitement into the realization of those printed words (sadly, at many points sentences were merely displayed as they were spoken, as if to evoke something the actors couldn’t (what exactly, I’m not sure, because the actors proved more than capable)).
Deviating away from the fact that’s its based on literature (as most films are nowadays), the movie still has its fair share of technical shortcomings. Starting with the redundancy of its 3D technology. Beginnings and end credits is all 3D seems useful for—though this criticism is trite, so I’ll leave it at that. Next, is Jay-Z’s soundtrack. At times, lyrically resonant and wonderfully fitting, on the other hand I also found it jarring, out of context, and overwhelming, especially once tracks were so blatantly being reused, as if to diminish its presence in its preceding scenes. I honestly admit that the production of the soundtrack is great to listen to (Young and Beautiful alone is Oscar-worthy), but only as a conceptual album in the same vein as what The Hunger Games achieved with their compilation. It is in my opinion that using the records on the album as the soundtrack, instead of opting for a separate instrumental one, was a grave mistake. But of course, it is probably keeping in part to Luhrmann’s artistic vision.
What I can safely praise are the talents of the actors, and the work of the costume and set designers, who may very well earn accolades once awards season arrives. Although Leonardo DiCaprio’s role presumably won’t nab any critical attention (not because of his unfortunate streak, but because his performance here simply doesn’t standout), Carey Mulligan’s delicate and alluring portrayal of Daisy Buchanan is one that controls and demands the captivation of the audience (as she does with her men). Nevertheless, the film’s immediate beauty, though enthralling and lovely to stare at, is wasted on a remake that is seemingly vacuous and insipid—a sort of representation of the characters, I suppose.
The final scene of The Great Gatsby is maybe an ironic summation of Luhrmann’s attempt to modernize Gatsby: as Carraway handwrites ‘The Great’ to his ‘Gatsby’ cover page, the penmanship is messy and the two e’s are written differently. It’s an analogy for half of the film as a refined printed title, the other half as an inconsistent and sometimes boring clutter.
FILMS IN 2013 for quick reviews and ratings of films, as I watch them!