Monday, 3 June 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

This blog isn't just about heavy Academic stuff. It's summer and so things should be more fun and relaxed, right? With that in mind, expect some more varied posts popping up here and there.  

Well... I finally got around to seeing the so-called 'film of the summer'. Yesterday (Sunday 2nd June) I caught an afternoon showing of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. I should mention, I saw the film in 2D; it was filmed in 3D and available in that format, but, quite frankly, I object to paying out such a premium to see a romantic drama in 3D! 

The film has had so much hype. As an avid follower of fashion, I am only too aware that the film uses pieces adapted from both Miu Miu and Prada. As well as taking over the world of fashion, the film taken over the public gaze in a number of ways; Tiffany & Co. released a special Gatsby inspired collection after having provided many of the film's jewels, and both Harrods and London's Oxford Circus tube station featured a heavy amount of promotional advertisements.

File:TheGreatGatsby2012Poster.jpgBearing all this in mind, I was absolutely fascinated with the film which my friends had said was amazing 'for the party scenes and the opening', and which had been given a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 51% (based on reviews by 213 critics); for those of you who aren't familiar with the site, 100% is the best, so 51% is definitely not a good score. Sure, the most amazing films aren't always those which are popular with critics, but I was pretty sceptical that everyone I knew could only recommend tiny fragments of the film, and the fashion, of course. 

So, the film. Firstly I need to point out that I haven't read the book for some time, but I have ordered a new copy. I was impressed with the visuals; I am that kind of a film-goer, I enjoy looking at pretty films. The party scenes were impressive, so my friends were quite correct with that. It was an enjoyable film, but did feel a little long during some of the slower parts. As a love story it is really quite beautiful and heartbreaking, but... and here come the buts... it is not the wondrous Great Gatsby book I fell in love with the first time I read it.

I felt that the film lacked something, and I spent most of the 143 minutes trying to figure out what that 'something' was. Sure, the decadence of the early 1920s was very much present, but the whole idea of the novel being a cautionary tale against the rise of the rich, I felt, was missing or at least lacking. It started to be woven in towards the end, but probably too late. I also felt that the film was perhaps a little too wrapped up in being pretty and delivering knock-out visual aesthetics; the narrative seemed to come secondary to the cinematography. I loved the costumes, hair and make-up, but felt that post-production graphics went into overkill - another aspect which detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

I was pretty happy with the cast, especially Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, though that was largely because of both her beauty and fragility. I did feel that a lot of the time Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a little too much on the fragile side, and lacked the self-assurance I always picked up on in the novel. Despite this, I thought it was an excellent performance.

Overall, I think that what was glaringly obvious was that it was a Baz Luhrmann film; and that isn't necessarily a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I love [nearly] all of his other films, but when you're sat pointing out things that clearly make it one of his films, and it reaches the point of detracting from what you're watching...no, just no. Largely, I'm talking about the rapid aerial shots and zooming, the dancing scenes, and the party scenes in particular, which absolutely screamed Moulin Rouge! (2001). Even the portrayal of Nick Carraway by Tobey Maguire seemed a little too reminiscent of Ewan McGregor's character, Christian, in Moulin Rouge! for my liking. 

So, yes I enjoyed the film. It was a nice piece of visual entertainment. No, it certainly is not better than the book. Yes, it appealed to my love of all things Art Deco and 1920s. No, it is not something I'd recommend to the die-hard F.Scott Fitzgerald fan. Yes, it is something I'd watch again and recommend as a good bit of summertime viewing. 

And the oppulence... oh my! The oppulence. Someone dress me in a flapper dress and get me to Tiffany & Co. now with an unlimited amount of cash!

-CKB

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