THE GREAT GATSBY – The Review
Review by Dane Marti
At first, the idea of making a 3D film out of ‘The Great Gatsby’ seemed to border on the surreal. However, there have been stranger things in cinema, which have ended up working out, and I wisely withheld judgment.
As most of you are aware, ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a book written in the 1920’s by the author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Along with the work of Ernest Hemingway, it is a novel highly regarded by literature professors, scholars, authors and folks that just like to read a good book. In lists of great 20th Century literature, it normally is near the top of the heap, either number one or two, sometimes right behind another seminal novel by James Joyce.
For me, one of the strengths of the novel is that the prose is spectacular in a poetic way.
Narrated by Nick Carraway—a Midwesterner, WWI Veteran and New York Bond Salesman who looks on the events from the point of view that presumably Fitzgerald would have had. He lives in a small house on Long Island—an imaginary area called ‘West Egg’ in the book.
Next door to his cottage is an awesome, magnificent structure owned by a Jay Gatsby. Even when Nick finds himself as a guest at his neighbor’s party, he finds out that absolutely no one has seen or met the mysterious Gatsby.
However, Gatsby knows who Nick is: they’d served in the same division in the war. For this review, I don’t think I need to elaborate on too much more.
Basically, Gatsby has made money through illegal bootlegging, but he’s at heart a man with qualities that set him apart from the other wealthy riffraff– the novel’s other characters. As a young boy, he had struggled to make something of himself—to become wealthy. He is a person with a dream, a dream to survive, to achieve, to grasp a ‘jewel’ just out of reach. As Carraway observes, he is a man with a lot of ‘hope.’
The conflict of the novel centers on the love affair and obsession that Jay Gatsby has for the lovely young woman, Daisy. Once, Jay and Daisy had been romantically involved, but presently she is married to Tom Buchanan, her husband who attended Yale with Nick. He is ‘old money.’ He is also an unmitigated racist ass. He’s also having an affair….
Daisy and Jay meet once again at Nick’s cottage! Their ‘affair’ begins again, fresh and vibrant and sexy! How will her husband, Tom react? For all you non-lit majors out there reading this, I really don’t think it’s important to know anything else: It’s a love triangle’ set on Long Island and New York in 1922. The story isn’t very complex, but the thematic underpinnings have impressed people for decades. I don’t think a review of the film needs to analyze these elements, but the reader might have many interesting conversations with friends after viewing the movie!
Having seen previews for the film, I wrongly thought that he movie would be similar to ‘Moulin Rouge’, another film directed by Baz Luhrmann. ‘Rouge,’ which took place in Paris around 1900 was a fantastic explosion of fun, but as far as The Great Gatsby was concerned, I felt that the idea of utilizing new music for a film which takes place back in the 1920’s would damage the quality and story ‘ Gatsby.’ Basically, the original novel was powerful enough and a film treatment didn’t need pop-music icing on the cake. Besides, I love the old 1920’s jazz and show tunes.
However, it turns out that I was wrong! The film does use new music, but it is cleverly embedded within the scenes. Through the use of more modern instruments, the film takes on a slightly surreal tinge, with the music enhancing, and modernizing the storyline, but never twisting or mutating the story into something unpleasant.
One of the highlights of the first third of the movie is that Computer Generated imagery of the mansions and parties around long island. Some of the imagery in this section of the movie is stunning and groundbreaking. The compositions, framing jazz babies, trumpets, confetti, art deco architecture and design are really quite impressive and deserve being seen more than once. This is all enlivened by the 3D, as in Scorsese’s ‘Hugo,’ using 3D in an artistic manner.
When the main storyline (the obsession and love triangle) begins, I felt that the actors didn’t seem to inhabit their roles convincingly. It was as if they were superficial cartoon caricatures, and not flesh, bone and sinew.
By the last half of the film, the movie’s acting improves and, when it came to the climactic moments in the film, dynamic and impressive. I was impressed and locked into what was happening on the screen!
One of the wonderful aspects of the novel is its poetic and romantic prose, and at certain crucial moments in the film, moments in which we see author Nick Carraway typing the story that later become ‘The Great Gatsby, ‘ the evocative sentences are artistically superimposed on the screen.
As Jay Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is superb. It’s probably his most impressive role since ‘The Aviator.’ Tobey Maguire is perfectly bland and pleasant as Nick Carraway. I’m not putting his performance down, but he is perfect for the role. Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan actually resembles a jazzy flapper from that era. It might help the viewer to imagine someone whom they have loved and lost. Carey is very cute, and her acting is excellent—especially during the climactic scenes in a New York Hotel Room. At that point, her performance is first-rate.
When it gets going, ‘Great Gatsby’ is a compelling film, a well-made version of the famous ‘ Great American Novel.’ It has flaws, but the overall theme of the film, like the green light over the Bay, is there for anyone who wants to try and grasp it. I won’t attempt to give a long dissertation about the novel/film’s meaning, but this film certainly makes it clear for anyone interested in the thematic meaning behind the tale. For everyone else, it is an entertaining and visually striking motion picture.
4 of 5 Stars