Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Great Gatsby - Movie Review

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Amitabh Bachchan and Adelaide Clemens.  Directed by Baz Luhrmann.


I'll never forget the hyper little conductor that appeared at the bottom of the screen to conduct the 20th Century Fox song at the beginning of Moulin Rouge. It was a taste.  It was a signal that this is the ride you're about to take.

Luhrmann's flourishes are intact with The Great Gatsby, a 3-D party movie that revives F. Scott Fitzgerald for an audience that knows he was played by Loki in Midnight in Paris.  The 1920's are alive with the sound of hip-hop.

It starts with a flashback narrative structure, where Nick Carraway is looking back on the events that transpired with a psychiatrist.  We go to when Nick is an optimistic 29-year-old Wall Street broker, played by 37-year-old Tobey Maguire, perhaps a little too old to be full of wide-eyed naivete.  He moves in next door to the elusive Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio, a few months old than Tobey but easier to buy at age 32).  Gatsby is a multimillionaire who throws elaborate parties in his mansion-castle every week, but no one seems to know much about him.  Is he more of a Bruce Wayne or Citizen Kane type?

Gatsby takes an interest in Nick, not only because they are neighbors but because Nick is cousin to Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), the rich wife of Tom, who lives in his own lavish estate across the bay.

I'll say at this point the thing that bothered me most about my experience was the sound.  The sound was very toward the front, and the music sounded like it was all coming out of one speaker in the upper right-hand corner of the theater. I asked management about it mid-movie and then once it was over. They said their booth technician calibrated and everything looked normal, that it was the fault of the studio that the 3-D Great Gatsbys were off on sound.  Music is so crucial to a Luhrmann movie and it was frustrating to not hear the soundtrack pop.

As to the movie itself, I rather enjoyed it. I would've preferred someone else in Maguire's role, but he was fine.  DiCaprio's always interesting, and I was impressed with the stylized work of Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan.

I do wish the screenwriter had cut out about 90% of the uses of "old sport." I swear DiCaprio used it as often as Django Unchained used the n-word.  Toward the end of the movie, I wanted Tobey to scream, "Nick! My name is NICK! Not 'Old Sport'!"

The movie made me want to read the book. (Yeah, never got assigned it in high school.)

Also amusing to see Zero Dark Thirty's Edgerton and Jason Clarke reunite as completely different characters.

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