Am I the only one who thinks that The Great Gatsby novel isn’t anything great? Nope, just me? Let me explain. The biggest problem I have with the novel is that I never latched on to any of the characters. Gatsby came off as some stalker who should enjoy his life and money instead of hiding away in his mansion hoping some girl knocks on his door, Nick added nothing to the story and came off as a bland and boring character, and don’t even get me started on Daisy and Tom. Reading the novel, I couldn’t care less about what was happening to these unlikable characters, and thus I did not enjoy The Great Gatsby a quarter as much as most people seem to.
You might ask yourself, why would you see The Great Gatsby if you didn’t enjoy the novel? Excellent question. Not only did I just finish reading the book for the very first time but I was very curious to see how the movie would turn out. With its insane visuals and great cast, could I actually see the light on the other end of the river and enjoy the story and characters that so many people love? No. Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a prime example of style over substance as the film shoves the story aside in favor of looking pretty.
The Great Gatsby takes place in 1920’s New York. Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), after re-establishing his relationship with his cousin, Daisy (Carrie Mulligan), learns about his rich and mysterious neighbor, Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is known for throwing extravagant parties in his mansion. Nick finds out that Gatsby had a love affair with Daisy and he’s been trying to get her back for years after she married the selfish Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Gatsby needs Nick’s help in order to get back together with Daisy.
The story is one of the best parts of The Great Gatsby. It’s an entertaining and interesting tale that carried the entire two and a half hour film. Even though love triangles and relationships aren’t anything new, The Great Gatsby manages to be original by giving the Gatsby character an unclear history that makes him come off as mysterious and interesting, thus benefitting the story.
As mentioned earlier, none of the characters are particularly likable. Rooting for Gatsby makes sense as the story revolves around him but it’s difficult to do so due to his bizarre way of trying to get back Daisy. He buys a house close to hers, he throws parties for the sole purpose that she might show up one day, and spends his time bundled up in his mansion afraid to contact her (or really make any real conversation with anybody). It makes it hard to relate to the character as he comes off as creepy and even a stalker at times. The mystery of Gatsby is the only reason the story works well with him as it keeps the audience wondering why exactly is Gatsby so obsessed with this one particular woman and what happened between them.
The rest of the characters are what brings down the film (and the novel for that matter) for me. Since Nick doesn’t add too much to the story, it’s difficult to care about him. Daisy has not a clue in the world what she wants in her life and only seems to care about herself. It makes it harder to care for Gatsby as the girl he likes has next to no redeemable qualities to her. Tom is the only character who fulfills his role in the story. He is not supposed to be likable so his actions make perfect sense.
The actors in the film do as good a job as they could. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the best actors in the industry and nails the role of Gatsby. Not his best work but he captures the many different emotions of the character which is essential for this film. Tobey Maguire and Carrie Mulligan do their best with their characters and both have a good presence on screen. Joel Edgerton as Tom does a great job at being the despicable character he needed to be and him and DiCaprio are the two standouts in the film. Nothing Oscar worthy here but good performances overall.
A huge problem with the movie is that it follows the original text way too well. Some dialogue is taken directly from the book which might sound good on paper but watching these characters say some of these lines is laughable when behind the characters are over the top visual effects.
While everything looks great, the visual effects go over the top too many times. Baz Luhrmann is a very visual director but he went so overboard with not just the party scenes but almost every shot in the film that it got too much after a while. Instead of being impressive, it took me out of the movie. I appreciate the detail but did we really need this huge amount of effects for a Great Gatsby movie? Want to know what else wasn’t needed for a Gatsby movie? 3D. Even though the 3D provided some surprisingly decent moments, most of the time you’ll forget the movie is in 3D as you’re mind is on the absurd amount of visual effects on screen.
The music in the film was pretty strange as well. Some tunes fit well but try not to laugh hearing songs by Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Fergie in a movie that takes place in the 1920’s (the “Crazy in Love” remix got a laugh from me and the audience).
“What the hell was that?” was what went through my mind when the credits to The Great Gatsby started to roll. The story and performances were fine but the visuals were so over the top and the dialogue was so goofy at times that the audience and I were laughing when we really shouldn’t have. A Gatsby movie with much more toned down visuals and a reworked screenplay (so that it doesn’t sound like the actors were handed the novel and said that was the screenplay) would work much better than Baz Luhrmann’s latest.
For reviews and more from me, Petey Oneto, you can check out my blog but be sure to check back with Resident Entertainment for more of my posts in the future.