The Actually Pretty Decent Gatsby
*Some spoilers but not nearly as many as the Iron Man one*
As the title suggests, my original expectations for this weren’t immensely high. Baz Lurhmann has made some of the most visually wonderful films (Romeo + Juliet will forever be one of my favourites. The bit in the swimming pool gets me every time) but when I first saw the trailer for this instalment into his body of work I wasn’t enamoured. It seemed to concentrate too much on the superficial and appeared to be a very real case of style over substance. Whilst this isn’t a film without its faults, I was on the whole pleasantly surprised with the way it turned out.
The performances from certain members of this wonderful cast are what save this film from being the Moet and glitter show. Leonardo DiCaprio is somewhat of a revelation in his role as the elusive Mr Jay Gatsby. In Leonardo’s hands Gatsby becomes a multi faceted joy to watch, vacillating between the confident party host to the madman threatening Tom Buchanan in a hotel room of the Plaza. My favourite scene of his is the one in which he comes to tea with Nick Carraway and his lost love Daisy Buchanan. Prior to her arrival he turns up at Nick’s tiny house with more cake and flowers than anyone could possibly need and then faffs about nervously and eventually goes outside in the pouring rain in his white suit to make it look as if he had just happened to pass by instead of orchestrating the entire thing.The huge change from this nervous young man to the frantic, sobbing mess chasing Daisy out of the hotel room is drastic and wonderful and I think that DiCaprio did one of America’s most prolific literary figures total justice. Also he looks really good in a twenties suit and in a boater hat. Just saying.
And what of Daisy Buchanan, the young woman for all whom the entirety of this vast spectacle is for? Daisy, one of the most vapid characters in literature, is played with a great beauty by Carey Mulligan who manages to inject some heart and soul into someone who is pretty much soulless. I got the sense that Daisy was actually suffering from sort of emotional turmoil, particularly during the climactic scene at the Plaza hotel in which she tries to admit to her husband Tom that she never loved him. Carey Mulligan is completely charming to watch and her and Leonardo make a lovely pair, making the ending in which even Daisy refuses to come to his funeral all the more heartbreaking to watch as we realise that the love Gatsby felt was never truly reciprocated.
I refused to see this in 3D (I hate 3D with a passion, it gives me a headache and the glasses look daft) but I do think at times this was to my detriment. Certain moments where it was obvious 3D had been used made the characters look as if they were cheaply stuck onto a green screen background, something that spoilt the otherwise magnificent spectacle of this film. Baz Luhrmann really does do big, noisy glittery set pieces very well, especially the madness of the opening party which, despite it not being in 3D, felt like an entirely immersive experience and truly did look like the best party ever. This is a film with the colour turned up to 11, nothing about it seems real, it all looks like it came out of a drawing, which I suppose mirrors the world in which Gatsby lives. He invented it all, why should it not look that way.
The soundtrack is one of the highlights of the whole Gatsby experience, with the stand out songs being Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Ray, A Little Party Never Killed Nobody by Fergie and some other people and the most wonderful of all, a non boring Emile Sande song in the shape of a cover of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love. I thought the modern music worked incredibly well, despite having reservations that it would and I have just purchased the album.
With the mixture of two strong central performances and a head whirling visual feast, Gatsby makes for an incredible sensory experience, if absolutely nothing else. And it proved that sometimes bigger can be better.