I have a confession to make: I do not remember reading The Great Gatsby. About ten years ago I read it of my own free will, and I vaguely remember that it was mildly entertaining and had something to do with a car.
I will never forget the movie, though. It was exceptional.
For those of you who have been living under a media-less rock for the past few weeks, The Great Gatsby, starring the great Leonardo DiCaprio, comes out on Friday, May 10th. It’s an American tragedy about a wealthy, extravagant man and his fatal obsession with a beautiful woman. I was given the opportunity to see a pre-screening, and it blew me away. (I am not given to rave reviews, either. Just see what I thought about Les Mis.)
First of all, let me say that director Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) was the perfect choice to direct this film. The opulence of Gatsby’s parties was intoxicating, the images were vivid, and each character was directed with a three-dimensional, sympathetic bent. There are certain pictures that, in themselves, make the movie worth seeing: the white curtains blowing when we first meet Daisy, the voluminous bouquets of white flowers when Daisy and Gatsby meet, the yellow car speeding across the bridge to New York City, the flappers dancing on the bridge across the pool… I could keep going. I saw the film in 3-D and I’m kind of non-plussed about it. In general, I prefer 2-D films because I appreciate sharp pictures, but I wasn’t distracted by the 3-D. I could take it or leave it.
Jay-Z was an executive producer and the chemistry between him and Luhrmann was explosive. Music and imagery went hand-in-hand as new songs were given a 1920’s jazz bent, and 1920’s jazz music was given a hip-hop beat. This soundtrack is guaranteed to fly off the shelves.
Leonardo DiCaprio was a stellar Gatsby. He was smooth, sophisticated, yet sometimes approval-seeking and insecure. We had a lively discussion leaving the theatre about whether he was a “good guy” or a “bad guy,” and nothing was ever resolved. Isn’t that the best kind of character? Above all, though, DiCaprio’s Gatsby was ever hopeful, which befits the description given by Nick Carroway, the film’s narrator, played by Tobey Maguire.
Maguire did an admirable job playing Nick Carroway. It was a tough role to fill- the “Alice in Wonderland” kind of role in which it was his job to simply show off all the interesting people that surrounded him. He was appropriately vanilla without being boring, and the lens through which he sees Gatsby’s story is awed but crystal clear.
Carey Mulligan played a delicate and tragic Daisy Buchanan. She was beautiful, of course, but also enchanting in a naive way. Her husband, Tom, was played by a strapping Joel Edgerton. His character could have leaned slightly more toward the barbaric in my opinion, but the decision to display his humanity was also interesting. The impressive yet alluring Jordan Baker was played very well by Elizabeth Debicki. All of the supporting cast was well-cast and told the story beautifully.
So is The Great Gatsby a great date movie? Well, it depends on the kind of date you want. If you want something where you turn your brain off and watch things explode, go see something else. If, however, you like good discussion, great spectacle, fantastic music, and a thoroughly entertaining story, then this is the movie for you. My suggestion: See an earlier showing- think 7:30 or 8 instead of 10 or 11- then go out for drinks or coffee to talk about it. If you, like me, review movies beyond “I liked it” then you’ll have a lot to talk about.
Five out of five stars. Go see it.