Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Produced by Baz Luhrmann, Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, Catherine Martin, Catherine Knapman
Screenplay by Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce and based on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher

The Great Gatsby is a visual and audial assault, which takes the symbolism, words, and plot of F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s original novel, and laces it with the glitz and glam of the roaring 20’s. As a huge fan of the novel, I was apprehensive of the film feeling like the symbolism and power of the book will be overtaken by a “Hollywood make-over”. It was, but it was a surprisingly good make-over at 

The film is extremely faithful to the book, which I applaud Luhrmann for, but I can’t help feel it was an effort to keep literary fans at bay. The tale of Nick Carraway meeting the illustrious Gatsby and being pulled into his decadent world was accurately told. Most of the language was from the novel, and the symbols within the book was carefully brought to light, however as the camera kept blatantly staring at them, they started to lose their significance. The green light, which was so vaguely mentioned in the book, an idea for the reader to ponder over, was suddenly shouted about at every moment. As for the themes, I am left unsure. There was a lot of wealth and a lot of dangerous obsession, but I feel like it did not truly transpire Fitzgerald’s message, and it was more me projecting the message I knew onto the film.

Acting wise, there is not much to say. Tobey Maguire made an apt Nick Carraway, but failed to provide much of a personality for him. Carey Mulligan was an interesting Daisy, but yet again, I feel like the actors used the 20’s setting as an excuse for not portraying half as much personality as required. The real stars was Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, and, of course, Leonardo Di Caprio. Edgerton’s Tom really felt like the character of the book: arrogant and prejudiced, with glimpses of human hope. As for Fisher, I wished she had some more screen time, as I found watching her as Myrtle was far more fun than reading about her. And Di Caprio? He caught Gatsby’s mystery, shadiness, obsession, and hope all at once. Maguire may have been the lead, but it was really Di Caprio who shone through.

So if the acting and adaptation standard was average, why did I find the movie so good? The answer lies with Baz Luhrmann. The Great Gatsby follows Luhrmann’s previous style of changing pace and flashy scenes, and the cinematography and visuals were phenomenal. Colour and action bloomed from every part of the screen, and the story kept on going. On occasion, it did seem a bit over the top, but generally I excused that. The soundtrack also deserves a mention. The juxtaposition between old 20’s and modern tracks, really brought forward the relevance of the themes of money, beauty, and youth to today.

I realise in this analysis it does not look like I liked the film at all. However, if you take the film without any expectations from the book, it would seem an excellent movie. On sheer entertainment factor, I enjoyed it very much. Did it capture Fitzgerald’s novel? Only if you take it on a literal sense with the words that it spilled out, but in heart I felt it didn’t. If the movie hadn’t taken itself so seriously I would have given it a higher rating, but sadly nobody likes a try-hard.

Sum It Up: For fans of Fitzgerald's book, this film will be a let down, however, if you haven't read the book, and are a fan of Luhrrman's previous work, you will undoubtedly be blown away. 

Rating: 7 /10


  1. I've been hearing mixed reviews about The Great Gatsby, so it was interesting to hear your opinion about it. Great review! (:

    1. If I hadn't had so much fun watching it I probably would have given it a lower score, but the purpose of film is to entertain. And thank you :)

  2. Rachel, for 19 you are very well written! Good post!

  3. Solid review Rachael. It’s one of those instances when style overcomes substance. Just a shame that it had to be this adaptation too.

    1. Thanks! And so true, I was really looking forward to this due to my love of Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby.