Friday, August 2, 2013

The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrman Style

  I'm a pretty established fan of film director Baz Luhrman. Strictly Ballroom is one of my top ten favorite films.  Mentioning that I'm a fan of his is probably enough to  automatically tell you something about the types of movies I like because he has a distinctive and persistent style.  When you see a Baz Luhrman film, you KNOW you are watching a Baz Luhrman film.  I appreciate his deliberately over-the-top, frenetic, wacko style and I love what a goofball he is for a good love story.  Knowing all of this, I also know that he is not for everyone and when I heard the mixed reviews for his new film, The Great Gatsby, I was wondering if the haters were folks who just don't appreciate Baz's style or if the movie really did have major problems.  So I really wanted to see it but was nervous.  After all he hasn't always produced winners (cough... Australia... cough) and I  really did not want to see him fail with an iconic American classic. 
So I am very relieved to say that I think most of the haters are in fact people who just don't get Baz Luhrman.  Or perhaps huge scholars or worshippers of the novel.  I admit that I have read and liked The Great Gatsby but it was a long time ago and I remember little about it except that it is about neighbors in New York in the 1920s and there is money.  So I wasn't going in with any strong preconceptions or visions of how it ought to be.  
So my relief is because I liked it.  Quite a lot in fact.  The styling, as usual, is interesting and beautiful, almost mesmerizing. The costumes are in particular stunning but the whole sheen (sets, lighting, etc...) is incredibly evocative of the time and place.  It is a phenomenol treat for the eyes. The story is, of course, a fantastic one and I think that comes through strongly.  It made me want to read the book again and I feel like it would inspire new readers.  
The casting is perfection and all of the performances are well done.  Leonardo DiCaprio is a stand out as the complicated Gatsby but Tobey Maguire is also great as the much less complicated Nick Caraway.   
My answer to some of the major criticisms I've heard about:
 It misses the point or heart of the book:  Well as I said, I read and liked the book but I'm not an avid fan or intimately familiar with it so I didn't have a problem here and I didn't feel like the film was all superficiality.  It is not without heart and has some quiet, introspective moments.  I have no doubt that this is Baz Luhrman's vision of the Great Gatsby which may not be an exact reproduction of Fitzgerald's book but I'm all right with that.
The modern music doesn't work:  I thought it worked really well especially for putting the party scenes into a modern context and drawing a parallel between the decadence of the 1920's and the superficiality of our modern society.
The car scenes:  People have called them cartoonish.  They are definitely not based in reality but I thought they were fun and again think they met their purpose of evoking the reckless culture of the time.
So my final verdict is that this was a great movie as long as you don't mind a Baz Luhrman stamp all over your Great Gatsby.  I'm all for that so I loved it!
Is Leonardo DiCaprio the only actor in Hollywood that could carry off a pink suit?  How did you like this movie?

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