The Great Gatsby: Search for greatness almost does itself in—Movie

Somewhere beneath the glitz, glitter and sequins that is “The Great Gatsby,” lays a simple love story…a melodrama if you please, and this story has a star, and in no uncertain terms that star is Leonardo DiCaprio.  Baz Luhrmann, Gatsby’s director, does all he can to undermine his star by hurling at the screen every special effect from his arsenal of 3D effects he can and yet DiCaprio’s Gatsby somehow manages to survive and thrive.

Written by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “Gatsby” is narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a newly acquired friend of Jay Gatsby. Nick lives in a cottage next to the mysterious Gatsby’s palatial estate in new-money West Egg, Long Island, in the early 1920s. No one is exactly sure how Gatsby made his vast fortune and no one really cares. The “swells” are just happy to bask in his excess.The Great Gatsby

However, there is more to Gatsby than meets the eye. He’s deeply in love with Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), a woman he met before going overseas to fight during WWI. At the time he felt he wasn’t monetarily worthy of her and wanted to make his fortune before reuniting with her. Unfortunately she didn’t wait for him and instead married a brute of a man, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Daisy is Nick’s cousin and she and Tom live in old-money East Egg, Long Island, and not so coincidentally estate is directly opposite Gatsby’s.

Gatsby’s whole reason for being is to sweep Daisy off her feet and take her away from Tom. It’s why he moved to West Egg and why he seeks out Nick’s friendship. He’s obsessed with her and therein lays the story.

Director Luhrmann was quoted saying as regards the use of 3D “…I know there’s gonna be noise, eyeball-rolling, a whole lot of easy cheap shots. Go for it, my friends. But the bottom line is, Fitzgerald wouldn’t have looked away from that new step, embracing that modern technique.”  Oh, sir, I beg to differ. While Fitzgerald might be intrigued by or approve 3D for movies like “Alice in Wonderland” or “Up,” I think he would be appalled at its use in a movie that to some extent is about feelings…emotions. 3D turns humans into characters in a snow globe. Rather than making them larger than life, it actually makes them more remote and removes any hint of intimacy. And when he’s not snow-globing people, he uses the 3D in other distracting manners.  Is it really necessary to thrust shirts into the audience’s face? I think not. The fantastic sets and beautifully designed fashions terrifically convey the excess that Luhrmann is seeking. They speak volumes for themselves.

Interestingly enough, exectutive producer Jay-Z’s contribution to the score doesn’t hurt the movie at all. The modern score actually works. You don’t walk out of the movie theatre humming the music, but it’s not the least distracting.

To his credit, Luhrmann has assembled a fabulous cast, all of whom do a terrific job. As mentioned earlier, DiCaprio is outstanding. When he smiles, he melts your heart. DiCaprio manages to generate anger and vulnerability in the same scene. (And it must be mentioned that he certainly knows how to wear a tank top–that might be the real distraction to his performance.) Carey Mulligan is very convincing as the object of Gatsby’s affections. Her ambivalence about her feelings seems very real. Tobey Maguire gives one of his best performances. For once his wide-eyed innocence works in his favor. Joel Edgerton, normally cast as a good guy or at least someone you can warm up to makes for a terrific villain. Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Debicki also have great turns in supporting roles.

When all is said and done, the actors make “The Great Gatsby” worth seeing. But see it without the 3D. You’ll save money and have a more enjoyable experience at the same time.

2 ¾ nuggets out of 4



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