Review: THE GREAT GATSBY (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Review: THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

Oh... my dear Gatsby... what makes you so great?
Baz Luhrmann's THE GREAT GATSBY looks visually spectacular, but feels curiously hollow and emotionally stagnant.

From 1992's STRICTLY BALLROOM to 2008's AUSTRALIA, director Baz Luhrmann is widely known for his extravagant visual rather than a good storyteller. His latest movie, THE GREAT GATSBY, continues his same tradition of filmmaking style where visual speaks louder than anything else matters.


Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 classic novel of the same name, the movie opens with Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a Midwest-raised bond salesman who has recently moved into a cottage on Long Island in the summer of 1922. He later becomes embroiled with his next-door wealthy neighbor, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Nick finally gets to know him personally during a lavish night party in his spectacular mansion, and soon discovers that Gatsby happens to know his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) five years ago. . Ever since then, Daisy ended up married with a wealthy husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). However, Tom has a mistress by the name of Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), wife of a lowly auto mechanic George (Jason Clarke), in which they often meet from time to time. Things get complicated when Gatsby enlists Nick to help him reunite with Nick's beautiful cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). Apparently Gatsby and Daisy were already knew each other and deeply in love before Gatsby left to fight in the Great War five years ago. However, Daisy was subsequently married with a wealthy husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) who happens to be a notorious womanizer.

Visually speaking, THE GREAT GATSBY is certainly fabulous enough to look at. Blessed with a big-budget tag of $127 million to make, Baz Luhrmann successfully captures all the glitz and glamor of the Jazz Age-era during the Roaring 1920s -- with a hip hop twist. With the help of rap music mogul, Jay Z in producing some of the most anachronistic soundtracks ever heard since 2001's MOULIN ROUGE!, the radically modern touch infused in this old-fashioned epic drama is just as lively and stunning as Gatsby's flamboyant rich-and-famous lifestyle himself. All the technical credits are top-notch -- including the lavish production design; eye-catching costume design and hairstyling; and of course the sweeping-and-swirling camera movements by Simon Duggan (I'm particularly loved the way he handles the bird's-eye view of the Long Island). Last but not least, all the starry cast here certainly looks the part for their respective roles given. But I must say it was Joel Edgerton who mostly steals the show as the brutish Tom Buchanan.

Nothing in particular, actually.

It's quite a shame that Luhrmann and his co-writer, Craig Pearce, doesn't quite understands the very essence of what makes F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel such a beloved classic American literature at the first place. Nevertheless the script feels empty and not to mention, unnecessarily overlong (where the movie clocks at 141 minutes!). Not surprisingly, there are little emotional impact surrounding the love tension between Gatsby and Daisy, who claimed to be deeply in love for many years. As Gatsby himself, Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast as a debonair gentleman but hardly substantial enough as a compelling character. Same goes with the talented Carey Mulligan, who looks all fabulous but little else matters. As Nick Carraway, Tobey Maguire is the weakest of the lot -- and frankly, he's quite boring and pathetic to watch for.

So tell me... how come I'm not the one who plays Gatsby?

Overall, THE GREAT GATSBY is a half-realized epic drama that could have been an epic masterpiece. Perhaps someone should tell Baz Luhrmann that cramming lots of visual excess don't make a great movie.

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