Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
2013/ Australia, USA
Director: Baz Luhrman
Director Baz Luhrman, known for his infamous Red Curtain Trilogy (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge!), takes on the responsibility of recreating F.Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved masterpiece. If his previous work is anything to go by then a whole lot of style and pizazz is definitely and unavoidably on the table.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is the narrator of tale of a man he calls ‘The Great Gatsby’. He looks back retrospectively over the summer he spent in West Egg, where he rented a small house next to the mysterious and illusive millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Across the bay lies the equally lavish but more hoity East Egg home to Nicks cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton).
The roaring twenties, a time for music, drinking, philandering and more drinking set amongst the seemingly never ending parties of post war celebration. Carraway, a bright eyed and slightly naive midwestern moves to Long Island to be closer to New York where he has abandoned his plans of being a writer and delves into the world of Bond Salesmanship. His compass of morality lays abandoned as he slowly becomes intertwined in the parties and the carefree attitude of the West Egg and the lies of his acquaintances. Daisy, who lives life on a fence of denial and indecision, Tom a self-righteous man who comes from old money and their friend Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) a gossip and a silent participant to her friends disputes. The only person Nick holds to any sort of high esteem is his hope filled neighbour Gatsby who is recognisable to many and yet known by none.
One thing that played a heavy factor into the unique outlook and atmosphere of the film was the soundtrack. The film is set in the early 1920’s and therefore being subjected to watching the high on life party-goers whining and grinding to RnB and Hip Hop from the likes of Jay Z and Will.i.am and hearing the strong words of Florence and the Machines ‘Over The Love’ to name but a few was both haunting and ethereal. It gave the audience a sense of the present in the past and really added to the theme and beautiful sadness of the film as a whole.
Positioning it somewhere between the theatre and costume like styling of Anna Karenina (2012), and the over the top, almost eyesore brightness of the Disney live action version of Cinderella (1997) starring Brandy Norwood, The Great Gatsby is something of an acquired taste. It’s hard to gauge which audience member will enjoy the general feel of excitement and gloom of the whole movie and which will find that all the glitter, smoke and mirrors will be nothing more than an obvious and annoying distraction to the lack of depth in the story.