PHOTO BY PHOTOS COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
THE GREAT GATSBY
Where is it playing?: Downtown Centre (in 2- and 3-D), Park (in 2- and 3-D), Stadium 10 (in 2- and 3-D), Galaxy (in 2- and 3-D)
What's it rated?: PG-13
What's it worth?: $$10.00
What's it worth?: $$10.00
Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, Australia) directs Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, a millionaire with a mysterious past who becomes the object of fascination to a budding Midwestern writer named Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). In this literary adaptation set in Long Island, Carraway is drawn into Gatsby’s lavish and glamorous lifestyle, but the closer he gets, the more he sees cracks in this nouveau riche veneer, and just beyond it obsession, madness, and tragedy. (143 min.)
Glen The name Baz Luhrmann has become synonymous with the idea of an “eye-popping visual feast,” and his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 cautionary tale of decadence and excess certainly lives up to his reputation. The set pieces, locations, and special effects are nothing short of amazing—and what better era to get the Luhrmann treatment! Art deco, early jazz, flappers, and prohibition combine into a gorgeous film that makes a clear dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots. In fact, as the nouveau riche drive from West Egg on Long Island and into Manhattan, they literally drive through gray slums called “the valley of ashes” in the novel. The symbolic green light and looming golden spectacles—they’re both in what appears to be a very faithful adaptation to Fitzgerald’s novel. And thanks to some seamless computer-generated landscapes, New York of 1922 comes alive. The famous skyline is in its infancy, and it’s the perfect backdrop for our narrator Nick Carraway to lose faith in humanity. If you’re unfamiliar with the story (maybe you skipped that week in high school English?), it’s fairly simple. Gatsby asks Nick to introduce him to Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who it turns out had a romance with Gatsby five years earlier. Nick is willing to do it after he learns Daisy’s husband Tom (Joel Edgerton) has been carrying on an affair with Myrtle (Isla Fisher), herself married. When Tom learns the truth, a confrontation leads to a car accident and subsequent murder-suicide. But even if you know the novel inside out and the ending is never in doubt, this is still a beautiful piece of storytelling.
Steve I’m wondering: Now that DiCaprio has played Howard Hughes and Jay Gatsby, who’ll be the next reclusive billionaire playboy he’ll portray in a film? Guesses can be sent to my e-mail address down below, and I’ll keep them on file until DiCaprio’s next movie comes out. So like Glen said, unless you went to school on Mars, you’ve undoubtedly had a chance to read this classic, so this movie is really more about the enjoyment of the incredibly awesome visuals and the performances of the actors. From the previews in the last six months, it was obvious that The Great Gatsby was going to be a visual and aural feast, and I’ll go out on a limb to say that this is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Glen and I saw the movie in 3-D on the fancy big screen at the Downtown Center movie complex, which I think is the only way to see this movie. The 3-D was done so well that I don’t think it’d be worth it to see it any other way because of how immersive the shots were. Cinematographer Simon Duggan doesn’t have a particularly illustrious list of films in his working repertoire, which is pretty interesting because everything he’s lit and filmed is A+ grade, and on top of that there are some shots and camera movements that would make Orson Welles proud. There’s a distinct action movie vibe to Duggan’s work, which doesn’t diminish the original story in any fashion, but rather accentuates the over-the-top lifestyle Fitzgerald apparently was pointing out in his original book.
Glen There’s no question that the acting is first rate, and watching DiCaprio as Gatsby subtly losing his cool as his dream begins to slip from his fingers is tragic. Maguire, too, is spot on as Nick, who’s drawn to Gatsby’s boundless optimism. Even when he learns that Gatsby fabricated his own legend, Nick still sees it as part of the American Dream; you can be whatever you want in America … well, as Nick learns, no you can’t, but that idea is still omnipresent and continues to break American hearts daily. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the film’s stunning soundtrack. Classics like Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” mix with hip-hop from Jay-Z, Beyonce, Andre 3000, and more. The excess and flash of the modern hip-hop lifestyle draws an interesting parallel to the excesses of the roaring ’20s, and Luhrmann clearly knows it. Strangely, according to the website Rotten Tomatoes, 84 percent of the audience likes the film, but only 48 percent of critics. Frankly, I can’t imagine why. The film is mesmerizing, right down to the opening and closing credits.
Steve I should point out that part of the success of this film is that the story in book form is fairly short and, in turn, the adaptation is pretty spot on from what I can remember reading. I think, generally speaking, when a book is made into a movie, there are a lot of things that just have to be left out because of time constraints. I wish people and movie theaters would be more open to the old-style epics of the past, where there had to be an intermission because the film was so long—but alas, it seems like that idea died quite awhile ago. I haven’t yet read any of the negative reviews about this movie because I like to have a non-plagiarized idea set about the movies we review each week, but I’m willing to bet that the people who didn’t like The Great Gatsby are just boring sticks in the mud who think that bashing an almost perfect film will make them feel like they’re superior in some way or another. This is a movie that’s a must-see in the theater, and I think it’s a must-see in 3D, too. ∆
Glen Starkey is a New Times staff writer, and Steve Miller is New Times’ staff photographer. Comment at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.