Apparently I’m living proof that advertising works. As someone who’s completely apathetic about both The Great Gatsby and Baz Luhrmann, and actually most films, I shouldn’t care less about the new Gatsby film, but since I saw the trailer and realised how well cast and visual it looked, I’ve been hankering to go see it.
Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed! Visually this film is absolutely stunning: the party scenes are as wild and debauched as anyone could wish for, the houses are grand to the point of obscenity and the costumes are fabulously lush. Leo is absolutely fantastic as Gatsby, giving a nuanced, elusive performance that got me much more on side with him as a character than I am with the literary verson. It’s a shame we don’t see more of Isla Fisher, but Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker was a pleasant surprise for me. Carey Mulligan delivers as always with an indecisive, rather weak Daisy, and Tobey Maguire is just perfect as the gauche Nick Carraway, the narrator who is never really part of the events around him.
The narrative is largely faithful, leaving very little out. The story is told well and there are moments of humour and intensity that thrill and surprise. The chemistry between Daisy and Gatsby is electric, and in the scenes when they first met again, there was a passion and fire that I always felt was missing in the novel. On the other hand, though, the directing and the script lack any subtlety at all, and the things that Fitzgerald hints at or guides the reader towards are spoon fed to the audience, often multiple times. If you must baldly state these delicate nuances, at least respect your audience enough to only say it the once, right? I did find myself rolling my eyes a bit at this, but not to the point that it spoiled my enjoyment.
There’s also a queer device used whereby Nick is telling the story of Gatsby from the refuge of a rehab centre in 1929, as therapy. I didn’t feel it added anything to the story and would rather have seen that screen time spent with some of the more interesting characters since these scenes were less than compelling.
I’m being picky, though. I loved the film, really. The first half was like going to one of Gatsby’s huge parties, a fascinating trip through the twenties with great music and illegal booze and everyone who’s everyone, and the second half was like the hungover breakfast the next day, sharing the gossip, cleaning up messes and dealing with the fallout. Fascinating.
We went to see this at the new Everyman cinema in Trinity Leeds, so expect a blog post on that soon! (Spoiler: loved it.)