Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (TheByteScene Review)

Date: May 16th, 2013


The Great Gatsby

3.0 Pink-suits-and-yellow-cars out of 4


Let it never be said that Baz Luhrmann’s directing lacks in style, or subtlety. Certainly, a few odd choices, and perhaps a few unnecessary slips and tumbles, but let it never be said that Baz Luhrmann cannot produce an entertaining, enthralling, and enchanting film that captivates and connects with its audience on an intrinsically emotional level.


For all the modern film techniques that Luhrmann utilizes to great effect, for all the modern, edited, remastered, and remixed tracks that make up the bulk of the film’s soundtrack and score, and for all the special effects and CGI the film splashes on screen, the heart of the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic burns on with a passion that only rivals Gatsby’s. Surrounded by no small amounts of pomp and pageantry, the film’s core characters exist in a vivaciously raucous stage that stands to parallel everything Fitzgerald intended to stand for in his criticisms of the decade, its decadence, and its people.


For those unfamiliar with the story of the eponymous Great Gatsby: kind, trustworthy, and considerate Yale graduate Nick Carraway realizes that there’s money to be had in bonds and Wall Street, throws away his aspirations to be a writer, moves into a home in Nouveau-Riche West Egg, befriends the mysterious bachelor Jay Gatsby, and finds himself being the confidant of a parade of characters each subsequently more wealthy and extravagant. All over the course of a single summer.


Written into an almost soap-operatic love story, Gatsby is hopefully in love with Nick’s cousin, old money Daisy Buchanan, who is married to old money Yale graduate – and former polo player – Tom Buchanan. Nick finds himself involved in their lives through a series of hushed whispers and quiet voices, eventually becoming a part of a magnificent tapestry of lies, deceit, and infidelity. All over the course of a single summer.


For those unfamiliar with the story, Baz Luhrmann’s bombastic rendition serves as a perfect entry point to understand the plot’s underlying themes, and to enjoy the characters in a slightly more abridged version than would be expected. For those familiar with the story, the latest revisioning of the classic plot is a reminder of why the book is so highly regarded, and before I continue, praise must be paid to Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton for their respective portrayals of Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan. Each actor, through some subtle and some not-so-subtle reveals, portrays minute details of their character in an almost spiritual way. Suffice it to say, DiCaprio is the Great Gatsby, as much he is a great choice for the role of Gatsby.


The film’s special effects, CGI, and cinematography must be equally lauded for producing a genuine portrayal of the parties that Gatsby throws. Onscreen, the parties are a regal mess, muddy and chaotic in a calm, serene, and methodical fashion. Music, lighting, fashion, people, and effects create a blissfully tormenting view of the parties that are described as being wildly extravagant and sublimely gauche. It’s impossible to view the chaos on screen with anything less than a yearning desire to be a part of the rambunctious display of excess that make up the mystery surrounding Gatsby.


Remarkable that the windows are intact, let alone the house not caving in on itself after the first hour.


Despite the ceremony and fanfare awarded to the party sequences, The Great Gatsby was in no need of the post 3D conversion. While quite pretty to look at in the added dimension, this is not a film that demands to be viewed with the depth spectacles. It’s evident that certain sequences were edited specifically so someone would have an excuse to demand the conversion (and the added price tag that goes along with it), but viewing the film in the original 2 dimensional format is more than satisfactory to enjoy the entire experience. In summation: This time, 3D literally adds nothing to the experience.


The soundtrack, an eclectic combination and remastering of current hip hop, rock, jazz, and R&B tracks, edited and produced by Baz Luhrmann, Anton Monsted, and Jay-Z add a modern twist to the film’s Roaring Twenties backdrop. It’s fascinating watching characters do the Charleston to a produced and performed beat, if only to realize that music is timeless. All it really takes is the careful application of imagination for the arts to work harmoniously coalesce, and it’s unnecessary to say that the soundtrack is the perfect anachronistic juxtaposition for the film’s 1920’s framework. Some will leave dissatisfied with the musical selections, others will marvel at the fusion jazz that infuses the film with charm.


Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a film that doesn’t lack charm, panache, flamboyance, or subtlety and is made better for it. The acting, directing, cinematography, editing, plot, effects, and parties are all a reminder of what talent can produce. They’re also a steady reminder of what achievement can be found if just the right amount of hard work mixes with talent.


Gatsby would be proud.


As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!




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