‘The Great Gatsby’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:41 am,

The Great Gatsby Reviews starring Leo DiCaprio Carey Mulligan Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire 2013 The Great Gatsby Review

Those looking for something more sophisticated (but no less visually entertaining ) than the average summer blockbuster, Great Gatsby 3D offers a mix of old Hollywood grandeur and new Hollywood edge.

The Great Gatsby explores the world of 1920s New York City, a mecca of decadence and exuberance that young Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) discovers as he relocates from the midwest to the rim of Long Island. Inhabiting a forgotten cottage amongst the sprawling estates of the newly rich, Carraway finds himself living in the shadow of an enigmatic neighbor named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a self-made man swirled in rumor and myth, whose fantastical parties are the talk of New York.

Nick inevitably makes the acquaintance of Gatsby, and is quickly drawn into a love-struggle between his mysterious neighbor and his wealthy cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who lives just across the bay with her brutish, philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton). With wealth, power, class and desire all brewing into a perfect storm cloud overhead, Nick soon learns that the games of aristocrats leave many shattered lives in their wake.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby 2013 The Great Gatsby Review

Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!Romeo + Juliet) is a filmmaker unlike any other, and he once again transforms a classic work into a living, pulsating, cinematic experience that borders on surrealist art (for better or worse). With a cast of actors who each deliver impeccable performances and some clever (but sure to be divisive) ties between the bygone era of the “Roaring Twenties” and the modern age, Luhrmann actually manages to expand upon the themes of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novel, while simultaneously struggling to endow the hollow story with heart and emotion.

Visually, Great Gatsby is once again a showcase of Luhrmann’s wonderfully outlandish imagination and sharp technical precision. Nostalgics costumed in their best ’20s-era garments, won’t be disappointed with the sequences of lavish party and wild excess that are like dreams come true for the retro crowd. If there were an award for “Best Director – Party or Musical Sequence,” then Lurhmann would win hands down; it won’t be surprising if this film pushes the culture even further towards a 1920s revival (already seen in  the recent resurgence of speakeasy-themed bars, mixology cocktails, ’20s-themed fashion, etc…).

Jay Gatsbys House in The Great Gatsby 2013 The Great Gatsby Review

Gatsby 2013 also functions (stylistically speaking) as a ‘living novel’ of sorts, and there many creative uses of effects and sequencing to remind us that this is all some iconoclastic fairy tale. This is especially true toward the latter half of the film, when Carraway (an aspiring writer) begins to enter his artist space, and Fitzgerald’s elegant prose begins to fill the slow in-between moments, at times being scribbled across the face of the screen before vanishing into the past (see what I did there?). Elements like symbolism, motifs and metaphor are not so much adapted as re-imagined (to great effect) by Luhrmann, and in terms of scope and depth, the film certainly favors the “literary” in “literary adaptation.” Yet, above all the social commentary subtext, the central soap opera storyline (while arguably basic and somewhat bland) functions just fine for those summer movie romance-seekers who are not that inclined towards literary analysis.

Party Scenes in The Great Gatsby 2013 The Great Gatsby Review

As dubious as the prospect sounded on paper, Lurhmann actually puts 3D to excellent use, utilizing the immersive capability of the format to expand the fantasy world he creates. Party scenes literally take on a whole new dimension when viewed in 3D, proving a line uttered early on by one character, “Big parties are more intimate.” Of course, not all of the 3D is that compelling: static scenes of dialogue or monologues (of which there are a few) don’t make much use of the stereoscopic dimension, and there is a look of diorama-esque artifice whenever the story moves out of the Long Island mansions and into the impressive recreation of early 20th century New York City. Despite some flat moments, however, the film is overall worth experiencing in the 3D format.

The cast is excellent, led by another great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, who comes in and owns the role of Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s titular character has always been a difficult nut to crack – whether on the page or onscreen (see: Robert Redford’s portrayal in the 1974 version); however, DiCaprio embraces the contradictions and complexities of the man – charming, suave, smart, shady, insecure, naive, volatile – and melds them into a tour de force performance. He’s cool, at times funny, at times pitiful, sometimes frightening – in short, he is likely going to be the definitive take on Gatsby for quite some time.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby 2013 The Great Gatsby Review

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in ‘The Great Gatsby’

Carey Mulligan is equally good at breathing life into the ethereal character of Daisy, who is at once beautiful, listless, passionate and pampered. Like DiCaprio, Mulligan captures the full range of the character necessary to challenge perception (is she a trampled flower or an ensnaring weed?) – and above all else, the pair have great chemistry simmering beneath their stoic, mannered facades; a fine romantic core to power the film. In this world  where manners and breeding trump passion, there is inevitably a hollowness to drama – but again, that has as much to do with the subject matter of Fitzgerald’s novel as it does with Luhrmann’s film.

Joel Edgerton (WarriorZero Dark Thirty) is one of two big surprises in the cast. The actor has been steadily putting in good work for the last ten years (after a breakout bit role in the Star Wars prequels), and  he’s certainly hitting his stride. It’s not just anyone who can go toe-to-toe with DiCaprio, but Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan battles for every scene he’s in, and walks off with them more often than not. And for a character who can so easily slip into caricature, Edgerton manages to keep Tom as well-rounded and complex as Daisy and Gatsby, giving us a worthy love triangle.

Elizabeth Debicki and Joel Edgerton in The Great Gatsby 2013 The Great Gatsby Review

Elizabeth Debicki and Joel Edgerton in ‘The Great Gatsby’

The other surprise in the cast is newcomer Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Daisy’s friend (and famous female golfer) Jordan Baker. With her lanky, statuesque beauty and wide, haunting eyes, Debiki is almost too dominant in her supporting role (not that I’m complaining, per se). She’ll definitely find more work after this.

Isla Fisher brings her plucky good looks and Wedding Crashers wildness to her bit role as Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, while Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) continues to outshine the material he’s given, playing Myrtle’s cuckolded gear-head husband, George.

Finally, Tobey Maguire does a fine job as the walking plot device that is Nick Carraway. Called out early on by Tom as a known voyeur, Nick’s job is indeed to take in the aristocratic world around him – and Maguire’s wide-eyed stare is perfectly-suited to the task. The former Spider-Man works in a bit of comedy and charm where possible, but is mostly just good at being the unimposing everyman who leads us through the story.

Isla Fisher Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire in The Great Gatsby 2013 The Great Gatsby Review

The most divisive aspect of Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby adaptation will certainly be the soundtrack masterminded by Sean “Jay-Z” Carter. With its modern hip-hop and pop ballad tunes (read: Beyonce), some will argue that the anachronistic mix of setting and soundtrack interrupts the immersive effect of Luhrmann’s world-building. While that argument is valid, in my observation the music is not employed frivolously or randomly, but is rather used at key moments with either winking irony or sharp insight into how the world back then (with excess celebrated to the tune of Jazz) is reflected in the world of today (with excess celebrated to the tune of hip-hop). Indeed, there is a whole sub-textual narrative in the film about the influence and role of African-American culture in American culture, further proving that Luhrmann’s film is as much a visual novel as Fitzgerald’s was a written one (with varied degrees of success between the two).

For those looking for something more sophisticated (but no less visually entertaining ) than the average summer blockbuster, Great Gatsby 3D offers a mix of old Hollywood grandeur and new Hollywood edge (again, for better or worse). At the very least, high school students everywhere have been rewarded with a nice, palpable shortcut to get through this particular English class assignment.

517737871 cv1 620 439 The Great Gatsby Review

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The Great Gatsby is now playing in theaters. It is 143 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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  1. Going to see this after classes are over. No idea why the critics gave it a 45% rating >.< The film looks amazing :) Can't wait to watch it.

    • Because It’s Style over substance, That’s why!

      • +1

      • Like all of Baz Losermans’ films. He takes masterpieces and gives you disappointments. Great acting by Leo and Edgerton though.

  2. So I saw the movie last night and IMO, the movie is VISUALLY stunning, I thought the 3D was a great addition and was done very well. I am not a big fan of voice overs but for this movie it works. I believe that if this movie did not have Nick narrating the story well then it would have lost some of its depth cause then you would have to rely on Nick’s facial expression and body language to see how he felt for Gatsby and I don’t believe Toby can pull that off. However where this movie lost it for me was the scoring. I’m sorry but like I said the movie was beautifully shot and and for me it had SOME depht but with a movie like this especially using a New York 20′s back drop the last thing I want to hear is Jay Z and a Beyonce track through out the movie. This movie could have Definaltly been so much better with te proper scoring

    • You serious about the score? So it’s a “hip” Gatsby? Hmmm, I’ll have to reserve judgement ’til I see it, but that does sound kinda lame.

    • You do know Jay-Z was the executive producer of the soundtrack right? Which was pretty good and it makes me even more excited to see this movie.

      • I agree with you completely Mr. Mack! I want more movies to go this way with the score. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hans Zimmer, but it’s just overplayed!

    • The score is the reason I will not be seeing this.
      Not using the glorious music of the period is a sin.

      • That’s so close minded.

        • Actually, it is not closed minded.

          The Movie is set in the 20s with a sound track from the 80s therefore it is not closed minded, it truthful.

          This is the reason the movie is a Mashup, you have two different cultures clashing in a movie.

          Hard to see a 20s. Albeit a fantasy of Jay Gatsby, the fact that there is Hip Hop music in it makes it almost comical. It is a Great Book.

          Movie looks stunning, but its just the music is out of place.

          • I have issues with this. No one (at least to my knowledge) criticizes Tarantino for putting modern music in his “period-piece” films like Django and Basterds. It’s art. It’s fluid, open to interpretation, and dare I say it… change *gasp*

          • How is the music really out of place? I mean there’s the first glance way of looking at it which is “hurr durr murdurn moosik not wurk whid 20s” but then there’s what they were actually going for. The reason why the soundtrack is made up of modern sounding pop music is because that’s the direct line between today’s wealth culture and the 20s lavish culture. Today’s Hip Hop and R&B was yesterday’s Jazz.
            Cars, jewelry, women. Come on man, it’s all right there.

    • “The last thing I want to hear is Jay-Z and Beyonce.”

      It’s amazing to me how the readers here try so hard to come off as sophisticated or insightful and fail to miss just how PERFECTLY the soundtrack compliments this particular take on Gatsby? Leads me to believe it’s much more about a disdain for Jay-z/hip-hop than an actual dislike for how the music “fits” in the film.

  3. 4 stars, Wait, What? :(

  4. First The Big Wedding gets a pass, now this dull disappointment gets calls the “best” film of the year? What has this website become?!

    • Exactly!!!

  5. Once again, we disagree. But at least you didn’t have any spoilers in the review; for those who haven’t read the book.
    The 3D isn’t necessary at all, but it doesn’t hurt the film either. I am lucky enough to have an awesomely inventive BF who made some “anti-3D” glasses for me (3d usually gives me horrible headaches), so I watched the entire movie in 2D.
    Also, at no point is the movie “flat”. Its incredibly well balanced, the story line, set design, costumes and acting are all on point. Even the insertion of modern music fits outstandingly well. I watched the movie with my BFs mother and father; both in their 50s, and I was afraid that the music would become an issue, but they both loved it and even made the comment that Luhrmanns version of the film was so much better than 1974 version, starring Redford and Farrow.
    I will say, even though I can’t find a single thing wrong with the movie, I can’t bring myself to give it 5 stars. Its more like 4 1/2. I -think- the only reason why is because it didnt send me on an emotional roller coaster. There were no extreme highs and lows thru the film; despite is obvious ending and the drama that took place between the characters. I felt sorry for Gatsby, he was very likable and respectable, Daisy was sweet, even though she is incredibly jaded and Carraways character was easy to follow and showed he had a good heart.
    So I did feel for the characters, but it didn’t make me feel 5 stars.

  6. “The Great Gatsby, a book where nothing happens and nobody has actually read.”

    That’s how my wife described it. And she’s a high school literature teacher. LOL

    • :D

    • For me it’s not the story and few people have read it though claim to have.
      It is those moments of transcendent language that make you stop reading:

      “He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

      • To be fair, Robert, much of that quote and Fitzgerald’s prose are actually in the film.

        And as for the music – this is the song that dominates the film at most points, and it’s a pretty good ballad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXYqDXAAtK4

        • This I do like. Thanks for that, Kofi.
          You are changing my mind on seeing this :D
          And I was convinced I could not bring myself to.

          • This song is also in it and In my opinion it’s perfect for it (Now there is green light in my eyes, and my lover on my mind)
            Perfectly represents his Hope for the future and all other things “green light”
            Again in my opinion movie is so good that you forget about a little bit of hip-hop music.

    • Maybe she should read it again. Lit teacher? Really?

    • Well there ya go. The end all be all opinion of it from a HIGH SCHOOL literature teacher.

  7. Looking forward to it

  8. Great review, Kofi, and I respect your viewpoint.

    The look is Art Deco pumped through a Moulin Rouge
    paint sprayer and the soundtrack is not music to my ears.
    And Baz Luhrmann calls to much attention to himself for me to.

    • Oh forgot to put the song, here it is

  9. The hip hop didn’t work for me, not because I don’t respect a filmmaker’s use of music to establish tone, but because the party guests were dancing to the beat of the overlay music (i.e. mimicking what I see on the weekends at a dance club). It’s historically inaccurate however you spin it. Were ’20s parties awesome? We may never fully fathom this, but the first-half focus on the partying was such overkill I wanted to get off the carousel.

    As for “reflecting the story back on today’s society,” why didn’t Luhrman just update the source material to a modern setting? That way the excessive pomp and music choice would not feel so forced. Alas, we are too captivated by the idea of the 1920s, but not enough for most audiences to sit through a “boring” true-to-time adaptation.

  10. jus seen it with my girl WE BOTH agree GREAT movie !!!!!!!!!!

  11. Eh this movie didnt work for me. If i had one word to describe the film id using distracting. The editing was choppy, the camera work had to much movement, the acting was over the top and sounded off to me. And the overuse of the phrase good sport was annoying. (Yes i know its in the book). Everything ive said and the visual effects were taking me out of a story thay could have been great with substance. Id go 2.5/5 cause it wasnt unbearable and had 2 enjoyable scenes

  12. First movie I’ve walked out on in ages! It was utterly obnoxious” And save DiCaprio & McGuire, the acting was irritatingly cartoony.
    I was expecting Baz’s AUSTRALIA, instead, its Milan Rouge.
    The story could’ve stood on its own merit without the A.D.H.D. style. Too bad, because Leo’s performance was worthy of a better film.

    • I agree i only enjoyed leo and toby. But leo saying old sport got old. If my count was correct 52 times they said that term lol

      • I thought I heard it 100 times.

  13. For the record, the novel The Great Gatsby is a powerful, beautifully written, haunting masterpiece. It was one of the first books I *had to read* in school which really grabbed me. I’m prompted to make that point by all these comments on the film that are taking swipes at the book. Haven’t seen the movie yet, although I plan to. Whether I find it great or not, the novel will always stay with me as a superior read.

  14. Young & Beautiful by Lana Del Rey was an amazing song that really fit into the movie, much more than the other songs.

    • Jay-Z picked that one too so that underhanded shot at the hip-hop didn’t work. It’s amazing to me how the readers here try so hard to come off as sophisticated or insightful and fail to miss just how PERFECTLY the soundtrack compliments this particular take on Gatsby? Leads me to believe it’s much more about a disdain for Jay-z/hip-hop than an actual dislike for how the music “fits” in the film.

      • I too have noticed the condescending attitude towards hip-hop being masked as “criticism” about this movie.

        Even more ironic is the fact that the majority of those same “critics” probably don’t even know the hip-hop songs being used in the movie at key points – so they fail to have full insight into the musical metaphors and symbolism Luhrmann is using.

        Great example is Nick’s first outing at Tom’s secret apartment. He takes his first drink and a song called “Who Gon Stop Me” by Watch The Throne (Jay-Z & Kanye West) starts playing. That song at once celebrates and laments the destructive (often hollow and superficial) nature of partying and excess lifestyle associated with hip-hop and rap music – a foreshadow to the world of party and excess that will leave Nick a broken man.

        So no matter how much people want to write hip-hop off as being incapable of being artistic, that’s still how it’s being used in this movie. But I guess people would rather throw around generic “it doesn’t work” statements than actually admit that their ignorance of the genre prevents them from fully understanding what the filmmaker is expressing – because you know, everyone is so haughty these days that they could NEVER admit to not fully understanding a movie.

        • While I haven’t seen this movie, I actually am siding with the majority of responses here. I won’t watch this because of it’s pretentious mashup stylings. Though I did watch and enjoyed The Man With The Iron Fists which was a totally different type of movie that matched two types of genres together not before seen. I am not a huge fan of rap but that movie fit the two together seamlessly, RZA put his two passions together.

          The trailer for Gatsby doesn’t seem to have the same cohesion. I can’t say I won’t watch a 20′s set movie with a Hip Hop music but only if the music and story fit together. Not just using Jay-Z as a tool to attract a younger audience as this seems. Baz’s soundtrack for Romeo + Juliet was a big seller, though I didn’t like all of the music of that film, it did seem to me that it was a good atmosphere sound that gave substance to the movie not just as a way attract attention to the movie.

  15. Just saw the movie, and i actually have to say I was thoroughly impressed and suprised at how close to the book the movie was.
    What people have to understand is ttreme difficulty in making a movie adaption of a book. No matter what there are multitudes of symbolism and storytelling that a ovie can not successfully display. But in The Great Gatsby’s case, i felt as if it was one of the closest book to movie adaptions i have ever seen.
    It successfully displayed a vast amount of symbolic imagery that was in the novel while telling the story that Fitzgerald did but in a more glorified and dramatic sense. Overall I’d give this movie an 8/10.

  16. With the amount of times the characters use old sport, it can become a drinking game.

  17. This is the WORST movie version of the F.Scott Fitzgerald novel ever made into a move, really was horrendous .. the critics are getting paid off for sure on this one .. don’t waste your money or time!!

    • Yes. Your conspiracy theory about us being “paid off” is much more likely than my observation that you an irrational amount of anger towards this film.

  18. I generally agree with your points, but here I have to respectfully disagree. I was utterly bored and the soundtrack did not work.

  19. I saw it in 2D. I am a baby boomer. The movie is luxurious and a visual feast. I enjoyed the integration of Jay-Z’s music and I am not a regular listener of their stuff. DiCaprio, Mulligan, Edgerton, Debicki and McGuire were superb. My only complaint — it was a tad too long. I think this makes the Robert Redford version look shallow and cheap. He was good-looking but had no depth. There is no comparing him (or any of the leads) to the current ensemble.

  20. I came to this review just to give my opinion of the movie. I honestly loved it, I saw it on Friday by myself and on Sunday with my friend. I loved Leonardo Decaprio’s take on Gatsby. I felt a range of feelings towards Gatsby from love to hate to envy to sadness, Leo brought the character to life for me. I read some comments and they tended to focus on the music, some loved it and some hated it. I personally liked the music but I also thought a few straight up 20′s era songs would of been nice. The movie was so good I actually bought the book after my first time seeing it, and it is now one of my favorite books. I will definitely be buying the DVD when it comes out.

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  22. Can’t explain it. There’s a vibe to this movie that I really dug. I went in with a very skeptical attitude. It is by no means a perfect film, but damn is it entertaining. The first hour moves like a mad acid trip, like the can can scene from moulin rouge or the ecstasy scene from Romeo and Juliet (another dicaprio favorite of mine). Once it all slows down and the plot gets moving it has its dull moments, but dicaprio shines through all of it with a great cast to back him. It’s absolutely worth a see. I don’t know why the music upset people, it definitely reminds the viewer that this sort of over the top debauchery is celebrated and sought after by many modern citizens of the U.S. and beyond. 2 thumbs up on this one.

  23. I was reluctant to go to see this but much to my surprise, it was extremely enjoyable.