The Great Gatsby Review: A Great Surprise
The Great Gatsby
has suffered a lot of negative reviews and after being forced to read the book it's based on by F. Scott Fitzgerald for AP Literature I felt compelled to see its new movie counterpart. You can't really describe a movie like The Great Gatsby
without giving away crucial plot details, so I'll avoid summarizing. What I will say is, if you liked the book, you'll like the movie. If you're on the fence about the book, this will get you to love it more. If you hated the book... well, you do get to see Leonardo DiCaprio without his shirt on.
I'm in that "on the fence" category. Or, at least, I was until I saw the movie. There are some really emotional scenes in this movie. First, everyone was laughing hysterically as Gatsby acts like a nervous school boy in probably my favorite part of the movie when he meets Daisy (Cary Mulligan) after five years. Then, I started bawling harder than I ever have before towards the end at how tragic everything was. The intensity of the film was still high even though I knew what was going to happen. That inevitable knowledge made the moments all the more heart wrenching. I think you lose out on a lot if you don't read the book first (and maybe check out some Sparknotes). Thanks to this movie, I appreciate the book about ten times more than I did before.
But while the ending got to me, how was the rest of the film? The first ten minutes were pretty bad and were what I expected to see from director Baz Luhrmann. His previous films (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge
) are revered as "guilty pleasures" but there's nothing pleasurable to me about the cinematography. All of the shots in those films were quick. In this film, the first ten minutes didn't have quick shots but they did have characters moving and speaking extremely quickly. I'm specifically talking about the first meeting scene between Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) and Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), the most atrociously filmed scene in the entire movie. After that scene, however, we are never treated to anything as fast or bad. In fact, Luhrmann gives us some grand imagery that sometimes feels unreal.
Another big problem I think a lot of people will have with this movie is that it's two-and-a-half hours long. This is way too long and there are a few unnecessary scenes in the movie that could have been removed to make the movie two hours long at least. Make sure you stock up on candy.
One more negative quirk about the movie that will frustrate some Leo fans is that Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't really show up in the movie until about twenty minutes in and it feels like a long twenty minutes. But his introduction is just like Gatsby – extravagant. Leo's portrayal of Gatsby is perfect. He captures the essence of the character. I've never been a huge fan of Leo myself (probably because he's my grandmother's favorite character and she refuses to stop talking about him). But even I have to concede how great an actor he is and this film is evidence enough of that.
No one holds a candle to Leonardo DiCaprio but Tobey Maguire is enjoyable. Tobey and Leo play best friends in the movie and their chemistry is great, which is not surprising considering they've been friends for about a decade now. Maguire does an excellent job as the narrator and character of this story, Nick Carraway. All of the actors give solid performances. You will hate Daisy and Tom and you're supposed to. But Maguire does come off here as much more likable than his character is in the book.
The soundtrack is also more than worth mentioning. I attempted to listen to the soundtrack before I saw the movie and they were long and drawn out (the fact that I'm not much of a rap or slow music fan didn't help my ears). However, in the movie they are implemented perfectly. Despite taking place in the 20s, Luhrmann used contemporary artists like Jay Z and Beyonce to sing the songs. For the most part, they are beautiful and even the rap is catchy. Especially with how jazz beats were mixed in with the songs. One popular song that demonstrates this perfectly was "Crazy in Love" which was remixed by Emeli Sande and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra. "Young and Beautiful" by Lana Del Rey was also great but was recycled in the movie in remixed form, unnecessary considering the number of songs. "Love is Blindness," sung by Jack White, also deserves a mention for its rhythm and the way White belts out the lyrics. More great music is always used to liven up Gatsby's parties, including the catchy ditty "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)." All of these songs are so catchy I can forgive them for pointlessly not being from the 20s and for being one of the top albums on iTunes right now.
The Great Gatsby
is a short book and inexpensive. I highly suggest picking that up before going to see the long and more expensive movie, but I definitely think they're better off as a pair rather than alone. Many may disagree and next to none will shed the same amount of tears, but I have to say I'm looking forward to seeing that green light once again. And I think many will be surprised if they give it a chance to shine for them too.