The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books and when I heard the Baz Luhrmann was directing the latest movie version, I wanted to scream. I'm not a fan of Luhrmann. Moulin Rouge is perhaps my least favorite movie of all time and I loathed his version of Romeo and Juliet. My disdain towards Luhrmann is similar to why I dislike Tim Burton, both directors prefer style over substance and I don't particularly like either of their styles.
My love for Gatsby is so strong that with a great deal of trepidation, I decided to see it in the theaters. I skipped seeing it in 3-D. Gatsby in 3-D just seemed like overkill, no matter how spectacular it was supposed to look.
Yes, this movie definitely had Luhrmann's style. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it really didn't. I wasn't sold on the movie until Gatsby made his entrance. I really felt like I wasn't going to like during the apartment party scene with Tom, Nick and Myrtle. It was too slick and overdone. I felt myself cringe. However, the movie managed to level off stylistically and have many fantastic moments that drew me in.
The best parts of the movie are not the huge party scenes with flashy costumes, modern music and quick cuts. The best moments are the quiet ones, the moments where the tension between the characters and subtext are on overdrive. I loved the scene with Gatsby, Daisy and Nick having tea. The tension made it funny and highly uncomfortable to watch.
Second to having the frame work of a great story, the movie works because it has such a strong cast. In particular, I loved Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan. This is a story about perception and it is layered with subtext that lesser actors could not have pulled it off.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie much more than I had anticipated. At times, I found Luhrmann's slick style and overt symbolism (are we in 8th grade english class?) to be overdone and off-putting. However, Fitzgerald's sharp story coupled with great acting makes this worthy to see in the theaters. As far as style, the costumes and sets are lavish and gorgeous, which only enhances the story.
The movie is a great reminder of the beautiful and poignant writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I can't imagine that anyone who loves the novel, won't want to rush home and reread it after seeing the film. I pity anyone who has not yet read it and they should immediately remedy the situation.