I wasn’t particularly asking for a remake of THE GREAT GATSBY. And I most certainly didn’t want anything approaching the three versions that I’d seen before.
I’ve always felt there was something left to be desired from the Redford & Farrow version. I loved Mia, but I felt Redford didn’t quite become Gatsby for me. It was a handsome film, but I’ve always wondered what it would have been like had it stuck to Francis Ford Coppola’s script. I’ve always heard he disowned the project – and would love to read his preferred draft.
The late forties GREAT GATSBY with Alan Ladd was always my preferred version. The cast was so cool with Ladd joined by Macdonald Carey, Shelley Winters, Henry Hull, Elisha Cook Jr. In fact as a telling of the book, this is still probably my preferred film adaptation… But I didn’t love Betty Field’s Daisy.
The worst version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel was that really bland TV version from 2000 with Mira Sorvino as Daisy. Though I did enjoy Paul Rudd’s Nick Carraway, I have to admit.
But now we have THE GREAT GATSBY in 3D by Baz Luhrmann and wow this is one unbelievably gorgeous hypnotic look at Gatsby’s world. I am someone that greatly appreciate visual splendor. I’m not always looking for reality when I go to a movie theater, in fact these days – with reality being what its been, the crazier left turns that cinema can take into make believe… all the better.
In terms of visual opulence… this is simply spectacular. Gatsby’s parties are from a fever dream of the twenties. Every bit as magical as the Moulin Rouge. It was a time and a place and the way it was brought to life was a spectacle all its own. The film is so dazzling, that while I knew the story – and we all know this isn’t going to be the happiest of stories… well, I allowed myself to be caught up like Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway. Tobey plays him pretty much as you’d expect – a perfect surrogate audience member to associate with. The man taken in by the wildness of the times and the 1.21 gigawatt charm of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby.
Finally I have a great Gatsby. Leo does an amazing job with the character for me. The scene where Tobey tells him he’ll do him the favor of inviting Daisy to tea… I love it so much. Maguire’s Nick is befuddled by how humbled Gatsby is by this, but then… Nick doesn’t know that this is everything for Gatsby. This is what drove him to become the man he’s become. That Nick’s cousin Daisy is the only thing in the world that Gatsby really wants and needs. He’s a manifest destiny man, and Nick had just agreed to launching everything he had ever dreamt of into motion – and Nick has the audacity to call it a “favor”. Is that what you call it when a man gives you your dreams on a platter? It disarms him, discombobulates him. It drives Gatsby a tad batty, though he is trying oh so hard to be cool.
Joel Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan is also the best version of the character for me. Bruce Dern just didn’t feel right to me, but Joel has the high born snobbery that stuck out to me regarding Buchanan. As his self-serving world begins to collapse upon him, he comes out fighting. Love Edgerton in this film, he’s such a great bastard of a man. Played with a great deal of finesse.
Where THE GREAT GATSBY lets me down hardest – is with Daisy. Nothing at all against Carey Mulligan – she’s great… I just feel she’s deemphasized from her role in the book. By basically making her and Tom’s daughter all but disappear from her life. When she shows up in the end – to those that haven’t read this book – they’ll wonder… “Where’d that kid come from?” but that helps to texture the problems that Daisy is wrestling with. Sure it’s easy to hate the man her Husband has revealed himself to be, but their daughter is another matter. That’s not really an issue here.
It’s kind of like when Peter Jackson beefed up the relationship between King Kong and Ann Darrow while deemphasizing the romance between here and Jack Driscoll. By doing that, it stacks the deck in Kong’s favor. Well, for all intents and purposes Jay Gatsby was a Roaring Twenties KING KONG – a big show for the rich and famous – one night of rampage and then shot on top of a broken heart.
Sure, I’m the one insane critic that will use KING KONG to explain F. Scott Fitzgerald by way of Baz Luhrmann… but the closest I’ve seen this period of New York looking like this is in Peter Jackson’s film.
The 3D is spectacular. This is one of those films that you should absolutely experience in your best theater. I’d even recommend dressing up. Put on your Sunday best. A treat for those you treat. THE GREAT GATSBY is a great story – always been a bit elusive for Hollywood to nail down. That Alan Ladd version seemed to tell more of the story an nearly an hour less, but then I wanted this to be about twenty minutes longer because it felt like a bit of the book was left on the shelf.
Also – and this is probably a problem that only I have, but the period and the time… and the subject matter, I’ve always wanted to see be handled more adult. But I doubt anyone but me would be up for a Paul Verhoeven’s THE GREAT GATSBY. But just imagine.
Baz’s film becomes something greater through his brand of cinematic insanity. Just as in all his films, his use of music and spectacle has created a vibrant undulating scene that you just never want to stop. Or at least me. I could stare at a different corner of the screen and be happy watching this film. Like the Douglas Fairbanks ROBIN HOOD neon and the Rudolf Valentino BLOOD & SAND billboard. Taking in the Twenties like this was just such a delight.
You’ve certainly never seen this GREAT GATSBY before – and I do recommend. Just know that there are adaptation wonks that will bug those that really really know the story. But if you’ve seen ROMEO & JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE – this is closer in line with those films.
And Leonardo DiCaprio is just a outstanding as Gatsby. I have always loved the character on paper, but really and truly – he brought the character to life in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Now I find myself rather desperately wanting Baz Luhrmann to launch a cinematic revival of CAMELOT – I’d kill to see Baz take on Arthur & Guinevere and Lancelot. How about you?