Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In Which I Review The Great Gatsby

I know I know, my Iron Man 3 review isn't even out yet, but hear me out.

I was looking forward to Gatsby. I adored the book, and the over the top production and soundtrack looked like pretty cool. I don't really know what I was expecting, but what can I tell you is that this movie completely blew me away in every possible sense.

Baz Luhrman, of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, directs Gatsby to near perfection. The first half of the movie is a little top heavy, the partying to excess and the mile a minute backstory, but the second half displays a true understanding of the novel's themes and a great skill for intensity and despair. I was expecting a party movie, despite all that unfolds at the end, and I was very happy to see that Luhrman chose not to gloss over the heart wrenching ending of Gatsby.

As far as acting, this one is right on the money. Leonardo Dicaprio, not normally one of my favorites, was absolutely born to play Gatsby. His mannerisms, his every utterance of "old sport", the very way he carries himself, are perfect. And while it still probably won't get him his Oscar, I'll be rooting for him. And Carey Mulligan as Daisy was a stroke of genius. I never quite understood what F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of the novel, meant when he said that Daisy's voice sounded like money. Now I do. There will never be a more perfect Daisy. Joel Edgerton's Tom Buchanan is also pitch perfect for the story and a great contrast to Gatsby. Tobey McGuire seems a little lost as Nick Carroway, but when you think about  it, that's pretty appropriate in terms of his character and whatnot. Other than that, not one person is cast out of place in this film. Everyone is splendid.

A lot of fans were skeptical over the production and soundtrack of the film, which are both completely bonkers and wonderful, but definitely not of the jazz age. But here's what I say to that: They capture the jazz age ideals that Fitzgerald so embodied in his book. Yeah, it's more Las Vegas than West Egg, but that's kind of what Fitzgerald was aiming at.

I know some fans of the novel weren't into the words of the novel on screen or the heavy handed symbolism, i.e. the green light being so prominent, but for people who haven't read the book, like my dad who went with me, it was kind of necessary. It was a little overkill, but not everyone is on the same page regarding the book like a lot of the audience for things like Harry Potter and Hunger Games.

Speaking of the soundtrack, it sounds pretty darn good when used in the movie. I'm not a big Lana Del Rey fan like I said, and her song is pretty much the same as everything else she has ever released, but it works within the movie, especially the jazz version used in the last party sequence. And you gotta admit, getting her in on it was pretty cool, since she is a bit of a Gatsby: nobody knows anything real about her, the  rumors are all crazy, and she seemed to become wealthy out of nowhere. Interesting right? Byonce' and Andre 3000's cover of Amy Winehouse's classic Back To Black is a mixed result, but it's pretty groovy.  Jack White covering Love Is Blindness, a U2 song, is also lovely and one of my personal favorites. But of course, Florence + The Machine's original song, Over The Love, is beyond perfect for this film. The lyrics capture the themes of the book perfectly, even referencing the green light, and it's arguably Welch's best vocal performance to date. Brava!

I was surprised by the emotional depth of the second half of the movie especially. The actors understanding of the characters, the director's careful guidance of the build up and release, and the fact that they actually went there was unexpected. You do leave the whole affair feeling sad. The whole thing has the feel of a great machine winding down to a slow halting end, that the wheels that spun fast at the beginning of the movie, when Nick couldn't get a work in edgewise, have finally spun down. By the time the logo fades to black, you're disillusioned with the jazz age too. It was completely perfect.

Go see this movie. I can't praise it enough.

And yes, my Iron Man 3 review is coming soon, stop pestering me.


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