Tuesday, 21 May 2013
REVIEW: THE GREAT GATSBY
143 Minutes. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke & Isla Fisher. Director: Baz Luhrman.
Gatsby! What Gatsby!? Well how about one of the greatest American novels of all time wrote by one of the greatest writers ever? The late, great F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' has been the go to short story for students and adults alike for decades but can you believe in this year one of the most popular books of all-time has sold 10 times as many copies as it has done...EVER!? That's a lot of pages for a book that clocks in at less than 200 turns. You can attribute Baz Lurhman's highly anticipated take on Fitgerald's classic tale of love, prestige, power and loss for that. After Robert Redford's timeless turn in 1979 as Jay Gatsby-and this directors rewrite of Shakespeare's love masterpiece-Lurhman reunites with his Romeo, Leonardo DiCaprio for his unique look at another iconic writers lament to love in F. Scott's soiree into the 'Jazz Age' of the 1920's.
It's amazing what a trailer can do in this digital age. Especially with a sensational soundtrack scoring it. As soon as that infamous Jay-Z and Kanye West 'No Church For The Wild' featuring Frank Ocean (last used to unlock Denzel Washington's 'Safe House' and now pretty much a trailer staple) beat comes into play around the gold borders, you knew this film was going to be special. Sure guys like Jay-Z and Kanye aren't exactly 'Jazz Age' and some more tracks of times back would have been welcome but you can see why Baz gave the great Jay of the rap world the oppurtunity to score this movie. Despite the first half hour sounding a bit shamefully like a Jay-Z and co listening party (but a great one at that), once the soundscape of artists that sound like throwbacks come into play this really offers us up one of the most inspired and incredible soundtracks of modern times. There's too much too mention like the beautiful sound of Lana Del Ray (she would have been perfect here for a cameo), the haunting harmonies of Jack White and amazing tracks from Coco O, Florence & The Machine, Sia, Nero, The xx, plus an inspired jazzy cover of Beyonce's 'Crazy In Love' by Emeli Sande and B's own dark take on Amy Winehouse' 'Back To Black' with Andre 3000.
The whole film kind of plays out like this. It starts off a little bit clumsy, but ends beautifully. Lurhman is a great director and you can tell this film was gloriously made for 3D but some of the techniques could be traded for more substance over style. Sure it's great to see what 'Moulin Rouge' would look like in 3D...but not what it would look like on crack. Baz's bold but beautiful cinematic take on Shakespeare's 'Romeo + Juliet' worked throughout, whereas this works well but is worth much more when the pomp is traded for the circumstance. Then again this could be Lurhman's great trick of showing just how fake and lifeless the outer party life of Gatsby was in relation to his inner turmoil, where the rum of Fitzgerald's story truly lies. At a glance both the book and the film look like the empty life of people that just need to stop partying and cheating on each other, but once you actually read and see more into it, you see what this love over money, love over everything, sacrifice story is really speaking about. This film may look glossy and like it's given a fake tan, but beneath the make up is where the beauty really develops.
Raise your glass to Leonardo DiCaprio because as soon as this old sport appears on screen after hearing him introduce himself you know that nobody else could play Jay today like him. Not Gosling, not Cooper, not nobody. It's almost like Lurhman started their working relationship decades back for this very role. After Leo played Romeo perfectly with Baz in his younger days, switching from Shakespeare to Scott and all grown up, DiCaprio is a great Gatsby. If you thought 2011's 'Inception' and 'Shutter Island' was a great year for DiCaprio then just wait until you see this one. After showing his invaluable and never vulnerable versatility as a vile villain with his let loose Candie character in 'Django Unchained', Leo DiCaprio returns to playing the conflicted man that he does so well with every magnetic mannerism and meaning. The man that has portrayed troubled iconic figures like Howard Hughers (in Scorcese's 'Aviator') 'J.Edgar' (with Clint Eastwood) now plays arguablly the most legendary fictional iconic not named Romeo here perfectly. This is his party, the leading actor of our times still stands above the rest watching from his window in the Hollywood hills.
Still, he isn't the only one here that makes his mark. In telling us the story former Spider-Man Tobey Maguire steps up his acting game as Nick Carraway whilst being tangled up in this web of plot intrigue. While 'Warrior' Joel Edgerton continues his stronghold on Hollywood with a brute performance. There's also great support from another Aussie Isla Fisher who really is making her own mark on Hollywoodland and yet another down under talent in Jason Clarke who continues the inspired introduction he gave us as a brother to Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in last years best film 'Lawless'. Still, if you need to find the next great actress of modern times who is a throwback to the classic femme fatale's then look no further than the shy but sensational Carey Mulligan. With a sublime performance she helps give this empty and lifeless at first film it's emotional weight and depth. If Leo was born to play Jay, then Carey was raised to play Daisy.
Beyond the extravagance is something that lasts...love. That's the picture that F. Scott Fitzgerald painted and the canvas that Baz Lurhman has helped craft here. This roaring take especially captures a subtle but personal favourite part of the book about communicating through touch alone perfectly. Leo, Carey and Baz portray it with the ultimate understanding. Now if you haven't read this book then you really should, still that doesn't mean you can't enjoy this story on celluoid depsite what some book snobs may scoff. This story is for everyone and in witnessing watching it with someone unfamiliar to the story is truly inspiring to see how the twists and turns still move and mesmerize people. This is a good Gatsby and although nothing beats the true original on paper, like the symbolic green light on the dock this story needs to go on. Baz and Leo are helping keep it alive like they've done before with their own unique rebirth here. Still it's your turn now to see and share the story, whether it be via the libary or cinema. Will you do that for me old sport? TIM DAVID HARVEY.