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Review: ‘The Great Gatsby’

The Classic Story Re-Revisited

Hollywood's latest version of "The Great Gatsby" is a spectacle that merits the illustrious title. Catch the classic in theaters May 10.

"The Great Gatsby" is lavish and bright. It's a party of a film that still touches the more nuanced points F. Scott Fitzgerald makes in the original novel the movie is based on.

In similar fashion to his equally extravagant Bollywood-esque "Moulin Rouge!" (2001), director Baz Luhrmann presents a tale of enthralling romance and killer parties. "Gatsby" wields enough color and grandeur to put Disney Pixar to shame. The brilliant tones are made even more glamorous with vast, sweeping shots, computerized enhancements, and surprisingly apropos 3-Dimensionality.

I normally don't go for 3-D movies-- they seem more trouble than they're worth, and a distraction from more creative facets of film. But "Gatsby" deserves a pass on this one. Through life observer Nick Carraway's (played by Tobey Maguire) impeccable narration, our minds are wrapped in beautiful diction. These words appear on the screen (giving a big nod to the original text) and fly about, wrapping our eyes in these same beautiful words as flurried flakes of letters. This is just one of the ways Luhrmann cleverly pushes through the screen.

The score matches the film's grand setting. It is often consuming. It's loud, booming fun. And while the music is definitely unsuited for the time, it's well suited for the the story. Like Gatsby's famously flamboyant functions, the thunderous tunes are too inviting to ignore. I hoped for a fairer blend of genres -- maybe some blaring old school tunes thrown in. But when timely 20s music comes up, it's pushed to the background. Nevertheless, "Gatsby" offers a feast for the ears.

Leonardo DiCaprio fills Jay Gatsby's legendary loafers brilliantly. He's the kind-eyed, warm-smiling gentleman we all hope to meet at a soiree. His refined coolness transcends his youth. DiCaprio brings a forceful presence to the role of the immensely successful bootlegger. I hang on his words and relish his mannerisms. At one point Carraway describes Gatsby looking like he just killed a man. We see that very raw expression from DiCaprio in Gatsby -- as though he completely lost himself in rage. It's captivating.

The rest of the cast supports well. Porcelain skinned Elizabeth Debicki as the ritzy Jordan Baker is especially suited for her role. She's cool, sexy and charismatic -- a self-sufficient dame of the roaring 20s. I'd love to rage with her. The rest of the cast -- Maguire, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton -- all do a fine job in their respective roles as Nick Carraway, and Daisy and Tom Buchanan. But DiCaprio and Debicki own their shots and exude excellence. I would watch just for them.

Thankfully, you don't have to. Watch for the wild parties! Watch for the refined passion, often absent from modern film. Watch for the fun yet grounding portrayal of Fitzgerald's timeless tale, highlighting the great beauty and perhaps greater flaws of American culture during the prosperous 1920s.

Junkie Extras:

Previous "Gatsby" films...

(1926)

(1949)

(1974)

(2000)

For the lazy...

Gatsby Spark Notes

Gatsby Ultra-Condensed Spark Notes

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 10, 2013 at 12:53 p.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

The trailer is nothing short of grotesque. This is isn't decadent post war flapper New York; this is some 21st century Babylon.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 13, 2013 at 9:50 a.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

Beth on MOULIN ROUGE "Okay, you’ve been warned. Baz Luhrmann, the in your face, over-the-top Australian director of Strictly Ballroom and 1996’s Romeo and Juliet— is at it again. "

That's PRECISELY what I think about this one.

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Avatar for user 'The0ne'

The0ne | May 17, 2013 at 6:57 p.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

Same reason as Mission. Prosperous 1920's may be exaggerating it a bit. Yes the times were easier until the crashed of wall street and the beginning of the great depression but life wasn't that easy for many prior to that..the 1920's. Roaring 20's included guns, which lead to lots of people dead.

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