I should state two things up front. One: I have never read The Great Gatsby. I know, it is like the classic American novel so shame on me. But I have read Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and On the Road so I think I can be forgiven this omission. Two: I am a Baz Luhrmann fan, but not a die hard ‘he can do no wrong’ fan. I liked Strictly Ballroom, absolutely adored Romeo & Juliet, thought Moulin Rouge was entertaining but just ok, and thought Australia was a pile of utter tosh. So, with the disclaimers out of the way, what did I think of Baz’s latest effort? Well, I thought it was a thoroughly spectactular show and a solid investment of two and a half hours plus however much 3D tickets are these days…
The 3D is a must see – I thought Life of Pi or Dredd might be the most spectactular 3D I would ever see, but Baz lifted it to a whole other level with this. Unlike Iron Man 3, where the 3D seemed unnecessary in the scenes where there weren’t things exploding and Iron Men buzzing around, Baz made it work here even in the more stationary dramatic scenes. His success with this format should be no surprise – from the start he has had a focus on stunning visuals, eye popping colour and incredible costumes. And with another dimension to play with here he really does hit it out of the park and smack bang into our retinas.
But it isn’t just an exercise in how amazing 3D can look – Baz also delivers a solid and gripping story, with interesting characters and an unpredictable (for me who hadn’t read the book anyway) outcome. The performances are across the board excellent. Toby Maguire I normally find a little bit wet-fishy, but here he provided a relatable and interesting narrator, managing to steal attention away from the bigger and more flashy stars. I predicted some time ago, when I saw her in An Education, that Carey Mulligan would go far – and her performance here is just more evidence of her star wattage. By definition she needed to be incredibly stunning and also interesting enough that the audience could understand why Gatsby is so obsessed with her – and thanks to Baz’s lighting, costuming and her natural beauty you would be hard pressed to take your eyes off her while she is on screen. Though, she has some competition – Baz sure knows how to make Leonardo DiCaprio look his best – even when sporting a pink suit. I am not a massive Leo fan, but he delivered everything here – comedy, intensity, romance and some superstar good looks. They weren’t alone either – the supporting cast, including Aussies Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke (the last thing I saw him in was Zero Dark Thirty, so that was why I didn’t pick who he was until the credits…) and the always excellent Joel Edgerton all put in fantastic turns and ensured that, even without Gatsby and Daisy on screen, it was still a joy to watch.
The one thing I found fault with here was the emotional depth or lack thereof. It wasn’t like there wasn’t drama or emotion to be found – it was just that I didn’t really care. I don’t think I can put that down to the performances – I think it was more the tone of the film. The visuals were just so spectactular and I think maybe that was it’s downfall – it meant I didn’t really see through all of that and relate properly to the main characters and therefore care all that much what happened to them. I didn’t have this problem with Romeo & Juliet – I cried buckets at the end of that film (and still do on repeat watchings). So possibly there was just too much going on here for me to get to the real emotional heart of things.
That aside though, it really was a fun watch. The soundtrack, as with all of Baz’s films (Australia excluded) is exemplary and just adds to the party atmosphere of the film. There are some great and catchy tracks and it was one of those ‘I must download immediately’ experiences. And the costumes are just TO DIE FOR. I am not that much of a fashionista (she says wearing track pants…) but even my inexperienced eye could see the brilliance in these outfits – which were both period appropriate but also cutting edge and flashy. So, if you fancy going to a party where the DJ doesn’t put a foot wrong, the people in attendance are both beautiful and interesting and there will definitely be some drama – then get yourself along to The Great Gatsby. You won’t regret it. Four M&Ms from me.