The Irresistible ‘Great Gatsby’ (Movie Review)

Great GatsbyBefore entering Tuesday evening’s press screening of The Great Gatsby, I strongly held the opinion that this was either going to be one of those films you’d love or you’d hate with uncompromising passion, no middle ground in the equation.  I know I found myself seriously conflicted in how I felt about it these past several months.  The first trailer did nothing to persuade me that this was a film I must-see.  Other than my infinite love for Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge masterpiece, I had not one ounce of desire to partake in a viewing.  And then came the second theatrical trailer and it totally erased all the negativity I had surrounding the picture.  Despite not being the biggest fan of Carey Mulligan, I found myself longing to see this spectacular unfold on screen.  And then boom!  A third trailer was released and I felt a little uneasy again until I saw a preview for the film on the Cloud Atlas Blu-ray I was reviewing…talk about indecisiveness.  Haha.  All I knew was that Tuesday night was going to be an interesting night to say the least.  Which way did I teeter?  Well, you’ll have to read on to find out, won’t you?

So I guess it goes without saying that you all already know that The Great Gatsby is an adaptation of the classic novel of the same name written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Although I can’t remember back that far, I’m sure most of us have fond childhood memories of reading this one back in school.  So while the nucleus of the story may not have changed all that much, the look and feel of the source material sure has thanks to the unique pioneership of Mr. Baz Luhrmann.  And while I may not like everything the man has made throughout his illustrious career, there’s certainly no argument to make that this guy’s a visionary and is able to bring extraordinary things, high concepts and raw emotions to the big screen and by golly The Great Gatsby ain’t no exception to his craft either.  The 3D period romance was both co-written by Luhrmann and directed by him.  I say, respect the man.  He’s got mad skillz.

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Fitzgerald’s novel gets energized and breathes new life into the silver screen with performances by crowd pleasers such Leonardo DiCaprio (you know he’s going to always bring his A-game), Tobey Maguire (he’s Spider-Man no more) and Carey Mulligan.  Much to my surprise, Joel Edgerton also stars in this one.  Ever see The Warrior?  If not, make sure to do so!  This guy, much like the other aforementioned leading men, demands your attention.  The Great Gatsby rounds off with performances by Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke and the beautiful Isla Fisher.

Much to my chagrin with the early reviews from the critics out there, I have nothing but praise and good things to say about this Luhrmann production.  From the unbridled energy and the exhumed emotion to the stunning 3D visuals and images, Baz brought the literary masterpiece to life on the big screen like only he can deliver the goods.   Think Moulin Rouge on steroids!  I can’t imagine this one not finishing on my Top 10 list of films this year.  If it falls off, I’d be shocked.

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I don’t feel like I’d really be spoiling a lot in regards to discussing the plot since the majority of us were probably forced to read this one at one point in time anyway, but for the sake of my review audience I’ll stick to my moral reviewing code of not spilling any beans as I tread on here.  So in a nutshell, I guess you can say The Great Gatsby follows the life and times of the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) and his poor neighbor, Nick (Maguire), who recounts his engagements, dealings and associations with Gatsby in the 1920’s.  Essentially,Maguire’s character is the narrator here as he is encouraged to write everything down…hey…much like McGregor’s character in Moulin Rouge!!!

As Maguire’s character, Nick Carraway, settles into his new humble abode on the outskirts of New York City, conveniently located right next to Gatsby’s monstrous place, he rekindles a friendship with his cousin, Daisy (Mulligan) and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Edgerton).  At this point not much at all is known about Gatsby other than his large, flamboyant and over-the-top parties he throws every week.  The weird thing is you don’t even need an invitation to attend, but why did Nick receive one?  That’s odd, huh?  Well, for lack of a better term, Nick and Gatsby form quite the bromance as the pair looked like they were best friends all throughout life.

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 But what about that invitation?  That still bothers me.  Does it bother you?  It should!  Do you think there’s a possibility that Gatsby might want something from Nick?  I think so!  Use the Force and search your feelings you shall.  Haha.  So needless to say, parties go by, celebrations are had, but Gatsby has a master plan he obsesses to achieve, a love of his life that he once let slip away and he’ll stop at nothing to reclaim her and recreate the past.  Now here’s a delicate subject.  As I sat back and digested the film last night, I thought about this in my mind.  What’s so difficult about recreating the past?  Everything!  Even though it sounds so easy, we as humans often inadvertently forget about the ripples caused in time gone by and ultimately can’t deny the way certain events went down, words that were said or just about anything else no matter how hard we try to shut them out.  You have to live and accept because there’s no such thing as complete forgetting until they invent a voluntary clinical amnesia treatment in the medical field that is.

So where were we before I went off on a tangent?  Oh yeah!  We were talking about how The Great Gatsby is an irresistible feast and orgy of sight and sound and how all the other critics and naysayers are dead wrong, have no culture or all of the above.  Make no mistake, Baz is a visionary.  If his dialogue doesn’t touch you, then his raw energy and emotion he expresses through his visuals and sound will.  From the high octane, crowd pleasing songs to the roar of the 1920 auto engines racing through the digital landscape, Baz crafts a world that I want to be part of, whether it’s Moulin Rouge or The Great Gatsby, he had me at hello.

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Now going into the screening last night I only had about 3.5 hours of sleep registered from the night before so I was mighty intimidated by the film’s 142-minute runtime, but time never flew by so fast…at least for me.  I was giddy as a school kid as I felt like I was re-living the magic of the master piece Baz created with Moulin Rouge all over again.  From the elaborate digital sets and grandiose party scenes to the erratic camera pans and zooms I never wanted to leave Baz’s world.  Sure by midpoint the energy and excitement started to dial down a bit as we learned precisely what made Gatsby tick and dived deeper into his psychosis to gain an understanding of his story arc, but the slower pace never dissuaded me in anyway because if there’s one thing Baz knows how to hone in on like no one else in the industry it’s that eternal love story with the utmost of intensity.  And he knocks it out of the ballpark here, in my opinion.  And before I forget to mention, bravo on the use of 3D technology.  I haven’t been that impressed since seeing Avatar.

So I said it before and I’ll go on record saying it again.  Baz Luhrmann brought Fitzgerald’s literary classic to life on the big screen in such an exuberant and larger-than-life fashion that only he could have pulled off and I mean that with the highest of compliments.  Like the height of roaring 20’s that this period piece was set in I’m roaring to see it again some day soon.  From the chemistry of the cast to the raw energy and emotion that propels this nocturnal love story forward, I see the green light across the water and I want to touch it again.  Label me a pessimist or whatever you want, but I’m a firm believer that nothing Baz does will ever top the magic of Moulin Rouge, in my opinion.  However, The Great Gatsby finishes a close second to me in his catalog of works.  And if you want further proof, the 7-year old boy, who sat next to me during the screening, never once got restless, bored or fell asleep for even a second.  He remained attentive and studious throughout.  Now if that’s not proof of a summer blockbuster, then I don’t know what is.  Remember…the all seeing eye sees it all…and so should you this weekend.

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The Great Gatsby opens up in theaters nationwide, this Friday, May 10th.  Go out there and get some culture and enjoy this one!

Oh!  I may have forgotten to mention there’s a wonderful soundtrack to boot too! 🙂

Preview the album below!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

11 Responses to “The Irresistible ‘Great Gatsby’ (Movie Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I am glad you really liked this film. I wish I could have liked it more, but I just wasn’t blown away by it as a whole, even though the style really sells the film quite well. What do you have against Carey Mulligan?

  2. Gregg

    I fell asleep. The first half hour was edited so frantically I didn’t know which end was up. Then a story tried to happen and that’s when the film decided to fire a howitzer at my attention span. The modern music set amidst the backdrop of the roaring 20’s was so odd too. That era had its own great music. Why put something in there that’s so out of place?? Now that I know Luhrmann did this and Moulin Rouge (which I couldn’t wait to end), I will steer clear of his work from now on. I don’t care for his style nor did this movie light any fires for me. So far, ’42’ was the only enjoyable movie I’d seen this year. Things aren’t looking good for the top ten list right now.

  3. Brian White

    @Gregg…Wow! Then you must have absolutely hated Django Unchained. How dare they mix 1900 and 2000 ear songs into that movie. Bad bad Quentin. You’re just as bad as Baz. As far as 42, I have no retort. I know I’m better off not even going there because I find baseball as exciting and thrilling as getting the motivation to brush my teeth in the middle of the night after falling asleep hard on the couch.

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    How did you walk into Gatsby and not know all of these things? Every piece of marketing emphasizes that it’s a Luhrmann film, very over the top, and uses contemporary music.

    Also, how many top ten films from January to the beginning of May do you normally have?

  5. Gregg

    @ Aaron: The name Baz Luhrmann didn’t mean anything to me before this film. You can market his name all you want. Do you think most people that head out to see this will be because of who’s directing it? Of course not. People will see this because A) Leo’s in it and B) it’s a classic novel. Some will see it for the director but not most. As for the music, yes, the Jay Z tunes were in the trailer, but quite often songs in trailers are not part of the movie. There was a Jay Z song in the ’42’ trailer. Was it in the film? Nope.

    @ Brian: Amnesia must be kicking in because you know I liked Django. I guess my familiarity with Tarantino created expectations. My lack thereof with Luhrmann did not. I wanted to see a 1920’s period piece and got people driving down a bridge playing rap, which is ironic because music style aside, cars didn’t have radios back then. Was this sci-fi? I missed the time machine. But, regardless of who’s sitting in the director’s chair and what music is playing on the screen, I did not like this movie for a other reasons and could not wait for it to end. Yes it had a great cast. No I did not care what happened to any of them. Was it better than the jesterfest called Moulin Rouge? Thankfully, yes.

  6. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yes, but they also have eyes and they can see exactly how lavish and over-the-top the film looks (the added note of “from the director of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet” helps too.

  7. Gregg

    @ Aaron: Okay, my bad for never seeing that tagline. Even if I did, I still would’ve gone to see this because there are movies of other directors I didn’t care for while enjoying the majority of their work. I believe in…and Brian this part is for you…keeping an open mind. I don’t care for rugby. Why would I not give ‘Invictus’ the time of day because of that? For starters, it’s not a rugby movie, just as ’42’ is not a baseball movie. Both are films about breaking barriers. The sports they contain are merely a backdrop. Back to Gatsby, Aaron, as for the lavish and over-the-top visuals, those existed during that time amongst the wealthy (and in the way shown in that movie). How are those eyes and that vision now? History, anybody?

  8. Aaron Neuwirth

    Also, Jay Z is an executive producer on the movie. The soundtrack released was an event in and of itself, given all the high profile talent involved.

    All I’m saying is that I’m surprised how blindsided you were by the style of the movie, given how the audience (who apparently came in droves to see it this weekend, given the surprising box office results) was expressly told what kind of movie it was in its marketing. You literally got what you saw.

    I didn’t love the movie either, which was more based on how closely it was tied with the novel (though the atmosphere was dead on and far better represented than other attempts), but I got the movie I was expecting to see stylistically.

  9. Brian White

    @Gregg…you are 100% correct…I find rugby just about as interesting as pulling weeds out that grow under nicely mulched areas, which is precisely why my white behind stayed far away from Invictus in the theaters and at home. I know you loved Django which is why I threw that out there as a perfect example to counter your argument about the music. The music in Django wasn’t exactly from the period the movie is set in. Bing, bang, Boom.

  10. Gregg

    But it’s not a rugby movie.

  11. Brian White

    @Gregg…see you had me fooled. It looked like a bore. A bore could be rugby in my mind. You twist those two words around and you take advantage of me. You had me at hello. And I’m still staying away. Oh yeah. LOL. It’s soccer. Okay. Same reaction from me. Like the Nirvana song…”Stay Away.”