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Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
05.09.2013
6 10

PLOT: Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a bond trader in New York during the roaring twenties, rents a house on the outskirts of town. His next door neighbor, the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) is infamous for his wild parties, as well as the possibly illicit origins of his wealth. They become fast friends, and Nick learns that Gatsby is secretly in love with Nick's cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who's married to the blue-blooded Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). After serving in the First World War, Gatsby has devoted himself to winning back his lost love, but is Daisy ultimately unattainable, even for The Great Gatsby?

REVIEW: Hollywood has been trying to make the definitive big-screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel since right after it was published in 1925. There was a silent version in 1926, a film-noir styled one with Alan Ladd in 1949, and in 1974, a version adapted by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Robert Redford, which bombed with both critics and audiences. In the interim, there's been a hip hop version called G, CALIFORNICATION did a season that had a lot of parallels to it, and a fictional film version of it even became a major arc on ENTOURAGE.

Suffice to say though, no previous adaptations have been as ambitious as the latest from Baz Luhrmann, the same guy who not only broke hearts with MOULIN ROUGE, but also managed to contemporize Shakespeare with ROMEO + JULIET in a way no other director has really managed since (although Joss Whedon comes pretty close with MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING). If he could nail a nineties shoot-em-up, MTV version of Shakespeare, wouldn't he be the ideal guy to do a fun version of GATSBY?

Given that the reviews so far have been mixed to negative, I went in expecting GATSBY to be divisive, but I assumed I would be one of the few critics to love this. I like my movies bold and exciting, and even the prospect of watching 1920's flappers dancing to an anachronistic soundtrack by Jay-Z didn't bother me. To my utter amazement, Luhrmann's GATSBY ended up being something I never thought one of his movies could be: boring.

GATSBY starts off well enough, even if the framing device that sets up Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway as being a patient at a sanitarium who tells his story to a sympathetic doctor seems tacky. DiCaprio doesn't make his grand entrance until a good half-hour into the movie, but the wildly energetic first half hour, while undeniably over-the-top, is Luhrmann at his best. The dizzying, montage-like editing seemed right out of a classic Warner Bros., melodrama, even if it was clear that most of the exteriors were artificial, and done with CGI. Given the Luhrmann's hyper-stylized sensibility, this was fine.

DiCaprio's entrance into the film is excellent, with the slow reveal amid one of Gatsby's crazy parties having a cool retro vibe (nothing makes an iconic character cooler than a slow reveal- see Indiana Jones in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, or James Bond in DR.NO). But, once the partying, and non-stop Jay-Z soundtrack subsides, THE GREAT GATSBY ends up being a shockingly hollow movie.

Who gets the blame for this? Obviously Fitzgerald's text holds up, as much of the dialogue is lifted verbatim, so despite the anachronistic touches, one can't say Luhrmann wasn't being faithful. Maybe it comes down to casting. DiCaprio is perfect as Gatsby, effortlessly depicting both Gatsby's silver-tongued charm (even his oft-repeated “old sport” way of greeting Nick never grates). The rest of the cast is very much a mixed bag. In some ways, Nick Carraway is an even more important part than Gatsby, but Maguire just seems totally aloof. The book and film begins with Nick's claiming to have been contemptuous of pretty much everyone and everything other than Gatsby, but this never comes across in Maguire's performance, as his Nick, rather than being cynical seems like a wide-eyed innocent. Maguire certainly isn't phoning it in, but here he's almost bland, although again, next to Gatsby maybe he's supposed to be unremarkable. That's great on the page, but on-screen it's boring. Probably the most fatal bit of miscasting is Carey Mulligan as Daisy. Mulligan is an excellent actress, but Daisy, who sparks an obsession in Gatsby never really comes to life in her hands. Even worse, her chemistry with DiCaprio is non-existent, which is fatal.

The rest of the cast is fine, with newcomer Elizabeth Debicki being particularly striking as Jordan, the unscrupulous object of Nick's desire. Joel Edgerton utterly disappears into the despicable Tom Buchanan, and he's so convincing that if I hadn't gone in knowing it was Edgerton in the part, I would probably not have recognized him. Isla Fisher is also really good as the crass, vulgar (but sexy) Myrtle, but Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan is very eccentrically cast as Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim.

Despite “The Great Gatsby” being such a slim book, Luhrmann's film runs a lengthy 140 minutes, and it tends to drag on. One of Luhrmann's greatest strengths as a director is that his movies always have a very strong rhythm and energy, but the movie feels curiously flat. The only time it really comes to life is in the aforementioned early scenes, and the extended party sequences, which is the place Luhrmann's creativity and style really blooms, with the soundtrack and innovative use of 3D being particular strengths (Luhrmann needs to make another musical).

I really hate giving a movie like THE GREAT GATSBY a poor review, as you can tell Luhrmann's really shooting for the moon with this, but it just doesn't come together. Maybe Fitzgerald's book just needs to be left alone. Somethings can only work on the page, and now, more than ever, “The Great Gatsby” feels like it belongs in that category. Still, I fell compelled to give GATSBY a marginal pass, as it's not a total loss, if only for the great first half-hour, DiCaprio and the frenzied party sequences. But I have to say, I really, really wish this had been better.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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10:11AM on 05/09/2013
Baz's films. Visually stunning. No problem w the music & singing. But in BETWEEN the songs? Everybody acts, err overacts, like cartoons on mushrooms.
Baz's films. Visually stunning. No problem w the music & singing. But in BETWEEN the songs? Everybody acts, err overacts, like cartoons on mushrooms.
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6:42AM on 05/09/2013

also

You mention making a long film out of a slim book...

At least hes not making an extremely boring trilogy out it. Jackson style.

(dig at the hobbit, not lotr)
You mention making a long film out of a slim book...

At least hes not making an extremely boring trilogy out it. Jackson style.

(dig at the hobbit, not lotr)
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2:27PM on 05/09/2013
I was gonna SAY!
I was gonna SAY!
+3
9:44AM on 05/10/2013
I hope it's decent at least, because I just spent $39.00 on Fandango for two tickets.
I hope it's decent at least, because I just spent $39.00 on Fandango for two tickets.
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7:18AM on 05/09/2013

All Im reading in the comments is

Ignorance. Oh this book is boring. Bla bla bla. I judged this movie by the trailer bla bla bla. Why are you guys even posting here if you already judged the movie before a review came out and decided nor to see it?
Ignorance. Oh this book is boring. Bla bla bla. I judged this movie by the trailer bla bla bla. Why are you guys even posting here if you already judged the movie before a review came out and decided nor to see it?
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8:03AM on 05/09/2013
Further to that, im as Geeky as Geek gets. Comics. Movies. Video Games. Etc and this movie is in my top 5 for the summer. I do enjoy classic litterature and dont arbitrarily dismiss it because it was "forced" upon me in school. Also Bazs Romeo + Juliet was shat on by critics whenit first came out and now its considered a classic. Will still be giving this movie a shot.
Further to that, im as Geeky as Geek gets. Comics. Movies. Video Games. Etc and this movie is in my top 5 for the summer. I do enjoy classic litterature and dont arbitrarily dismiss it because it was "forced" upon me in school. Also Bazs Romeo + Juliet was shat on by critics whenit first came out and now its considered a classic. Will still be giving this movie a shot.
10:42AM on 05/09/2013
I've seen it...it's boring..that's why I agreed with the column.
I've seen it...it's boring..that's why I agreed with the column.
12:09PM on 05/09/2013
in fairness I didnt get forced to read it, i chose to.
and its not a very good novel and far from a classic.



in fairness I didnt get forced to read it, i chose to.
and its not a very good novel and far from a classic.



1:23PM on 05/09/2013
Firstly, I don't know who considers Luhrman's R+J a classic, but I will respect your opinion on that. Secondly, I don't dislike the book because it was forced upon me in school, I dislike it because it was a terrible novel. Just because it's considered a classic doesn't mean it has value. It's completely shallow and pointless and there's not a single likable character. That's why I don't like it.
Firstly, I don't know who considers Luhrman's R+J a classic, but I will respect your opinion on that. Secondly, I don't dislike the book because it was forced upon me in school, I dislike it because it was a terrible novel. Just because it's considered a classic doesn't mean it has value. It's completely shallow and pointless and there's not a single likable character. That's why I don't like it.
5:46AM on 05/09/2013

Looked horrible

The soundtrack sucks, they should have kept with the music of that period. It also looked like it was aimed towards teenage girls for some reason. I am sure the actors do a fine job but this movie is going to bomb at the BO. No kid is going to sit through such a long and boring movie. I don't think this is required reading in school anymore either so no teen will have read the source material. The movie aimed itself towards teens but it is really for people 25+, who will hate it because it is
The soundtrack sucks, they should have kept with the music of that period. It also looked like it was aimed towards teenage girls for some reason. I am sure the actors do a fine job but this movie is going to bomb at the BO. No kid is going to sit through such a long and boring movie. I don't think this is required reading in school anymore either so no teen will have read the source material. The movie aimed itself towards teens but it is really for people 25+, who will hate it because it is too modernized.
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9:39AM on 05/09/2013
:(
:(
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2:32PM on 05/10/2013

Wow! Really?! And Yet, I'm Not Suprised.

I agree with you. Baz Luhrmann is a fantastic director and I think he SHOULD make another musical as "MOULIN ROUGE!" Is on my top 20 list of Best Films Of All Time. I also Loved "Romeo + Juliet" . Luhrmann
has however (as far as I'm concerned) had 2 big misses with "AUSTRALIA" and "STRICTLY BALLROOM", and if you haven't read the original first draft of "MOULIN ROUGE!" save yourself the time. It was horrible! Thank god they didn't shoot that version! This is the first review I've read for THE
I agree with you. Baz Luhrmann is a fantastic director and I think he SHOULD make another musical as "MOULIN ROUGE!" Is on my top 20 list of Best Films Of All Time. I also Loved "Romeo + Juliet" . Luhrmann
has however (as far as I'm concerned) had 2 big misses with "AUSTRALIA" and "STRICTLY BALLROOM", and if you haven't read the original first draft of "MOULIN ROUGE!" save yourself the time. It was horrible! Thank god they didn't shoot that version! This is the first review I've read for THE GREAT GATSBY and to hear that most of the reviews so far have been pretty negative is shocking as I had high hopes for this one. Perhaps I'll still like it. I hope so I think Baz Luhrmann is one of the very best filmmakers working in Hollywood today.
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+1
4:10AM on 05/09/2013
That was a surprise.
That was a surprise.
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+0
10:36AM on 05/10/2013

Thank youu

this is why we have Joblo, thanks for saving me 15 bucks Chris...
this is why we have Joblo, thanks for saving me 15 bucks Chris...
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+0
1:29AM on 05/09/2013
Gatsby boring? Shocking. But seriously, I hated this book as a student. Didn't care for the store, didn't care for a single vapid character, and I didn't care about all the triviality that fills up pretty much the entire book. To say that I am surprised this film is mediocre at best would be a lie.
Gatsby boring? Shocking. But seriously, I hated this book as a student. Didn't care for the store, didn't care for a single vapid character, and I didn't care about all the triviality that fills up pretty much the entire book. To say that I am surprised this film is mediocre at best would be a lie.
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1:08AM on 05/09/2013
That's about what I thought. My niece loved it, though.
That's about what I thought. My niece loved it, though.
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12:01AM on 05/10/2013

Rename it...

The "Just Okay" Gatsby
The "Just Okay" Gatsby
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9:55AM on 05/09/2013
I love the book and the cast, but I hate Baz Luhrmann. I was really hoping the material would save this picture. Oh well. I'll still give it a chance in the hopes that I like it, but that's probably not likely anymore.
I love the book and the cast, but I hate Baz Luhrmann. I was really hoping the material would save this picture. Oh well. I'll still give it a chance in the hopes that I like it, but that's probably not likely anymore.
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7:44AM on 05/09/2013
What immediately turned me off from the trailer was that it proudly displayed Luhrman was directing. Romeo + Juliet and especially Moulin Rogue are two films that would easily make my top 30 worst films I've ever seen. Unless this gets amazing reviews (which it hasn't, so far) there is no way I'm being tricked again.
What immediately turned me off from the trailer was that it proudly displayed Luhrman was directing. Romeo + Juliet and especially Moulin Rogue are two films that would easily make my top 30 worst films I've ever seen. Unless this gets amazing reviews (which it hasn't, so far) there is no way I'm being tricked again.
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8:04AM on 05/09/2013
I think you need to openyour mind a little more young grasshoppa.
I think you need to openyour mind a little more young grasshoppa.
3:26AM on 05/10/2013
No I completely agree with his opinion, those movies are awful
No I completely agree with his opinion, those movies are awful
7:05AM on 05/09/2013

Not Surprising...

When I first heard another attempt at a Gatsby movie was being made, my first reaction was " YAWN". In all honesty, it's a boring book. I know the stuffy literary types will disagree and think me a comic book reading moron, to which I say thank you and good day, sir. Maguire is almost always the same guy in every movie...a little mundane and very unspectacular..maybe that's why he was a good Peter Parker. You can even tell the trailer for this film is trying hard to make it look exciting. In
When I first heard another attempt at a Gatsby movie was being made, my first reaction was " YAWN". In all honesty, it's a boring book. I know the stuffy literary types will disagree and think me a comic book reading moron, to which I say thank you and good day, sir. Maguire is almost always the same guy in every movie...a little mundane and very unspectacular..maybe that's why he was a good Peter Parker. You can even tell the trailer for this film is trying hard to make it look exciting. In the end it's a boring movie from a boring book...sorry Professor.
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4:11AM on 05/10/2013
Hes awful as peter parker.

I don't remember parker being a short boring little cry baby.
Hes awful as peter parker.

I don't remember parker being a short boring little cry baby.
2:35AM on 05/09/2013

Hate The Book

I never read the book in high school, so I just read it last month in preparation of this new film version. While the prose is pretty, the story, especially the ending is absolute horseshit. It's a pointless story that amounts to spending time with shallow people for no other reason than to do so, and our main character is the worst offender of them all.

As a huge Luhrman fan (even 'Australia') I hope that the film is better, but given the terrible source material, that'd be a miracle.
I never read the book in high school, so I just read it last month in preparation of this new film version. While the prose is pretty, the story, especially the ending is absolute horseshit. It's a pointless story that amounts to spending time with shallow people for no other reason than to do so, and our main character is the worst offender of them all.

As a huge Luhrman fan (even 'Australia') I hope that the film is better, but given the terrible source material, that'd be a miracle.
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12:10AM on 05/10/2013

Hey Baz!

Do "Catcher In The Rye" next!

...to add to the list of pointless musical adaptations of novels.
Do "Catcher In The Rye" next!

...to add to the list of pointless musical adaptations of novels.
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-4
3:03AM on 05/09/2013

Yeah

Agreed with the other posters below. I did not care for the book at all. I have no interest in seeing this film.
Agreed with the other posters below. I did not care for the book at all. I have no interest in seeing this film.
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5:07PM on 05/09/2013
Honestly, I wonder how many original projects that didn't get financed because of this glitter-bomb?'
Honestly, I wonder how many original projects that didn't get financed because of this glitter-bomb?'
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2:30PM on 05/09/2013
I read the book in highschool, and it must not have been memorable, because I can't recall anything striking about it. I did have some great reads in highschool. Problem with this movie is that it has what I call the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow over-glossy, hyper-stylized look that makes it hard to take seriously. Another recent offender is Gangster Squad. I hated, HATED Moulin Rouge, so I just can't get on board with this, though parts of it look enticing. But thanks for the
I read the book in highschool, and it must not have been memorable, because I can't recall anything striking about it. I did have some great reads in highschool. Problem with this movie is that it has what I call the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow over-glossy, hyper-stylized look that makes it hard to take seriously. Another recent offender is Gangster Squad. I hated, HATED Moulin Rouge, so I just can't get on board with this, though parts of it look enticing. But thanks for the honest/open review.
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9:59AM on 05/09/2013

I told you so......

I knew this movie would be a dud. I called it as soon as I heard it was being made. It's terrible story which also is the only one I know of that doesn't have a plot. Why DiCaprio signed on for this garbage I have no idea.
I knew this movie would be a dud. I called it as soon as I heard it was being made. It's terrible story which also is the only one I know of that doesn't have a plot. Why DiCaprio signed on for this garbage I have no idea.
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10:09AM on 05/09/2013
Terrible story? No plot?! Do you know what youre talking about?!
Terrible story? No plot?! Do you know what youre talking about?!
10:53AM on 05/09/2013
you're THAT guy
you're THAT guy
12:13AM on 05/10/2013
By way of contrast, American Psycho is a novel with a great story but which doesn't have a plot. Yet DiCaprio passed on that one.... :P
By way of contrast, American Psycho is a novel with a great story but which doesn't have a plot. Yet DiCaprio passed on that one.... :P
5:05AM on 05/09/2013

could see this coming.

IM not surprised. Toby mcguire is a terrible actor.

I read this years ago, if this is the great American novel i pity Americans.
IM not surprised. Toby mcguire is a terrible actor.

I read this years ago, if this is the great American novel i pity Americans.
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