Leonardo DiCaprio? Baz Luhrman? Prada? This latest version of the Great Gatsby seemed to have me in mind. Judging from the amount of people also at an 11am screening on what is technically still a weekday, a lot of other people thought so too.
The reviews have been mixed, leaning toward the negative. This is something I expected just because. You can always tell that when a classic work of literature or even just a novel that is beloved is made into a film or, perhaps more dangerous, a mini series, there will be issues. But I tried very hard to not read the details of any reviews and the result was that I only briefly heard about the screenplay taking one very large liberty with the story but I did not know what that was until I saw it. If you have no desire to know what it is before you see it or if you just don't want to read anything about the film until you see it then stop here. Otherwise, feel free to keep reading or go make a sandwich or take a walk or some crap.
I should impart my love for Leonardo DiCaprio and pretty much everything he has done and yes, including (and starting with) Growing Pains. Everything about the way he plays a character and even his public persona made me completely understand why he was picked to play Gatsby. There is a little bit of a cool detachment to his persona many times and an intimidation he projects that seemed perfect to portray a character of such an elusive and dubious history, someone who hides his true identity for a large part of the story. DiCaprio just projects an aura that makes me think "what is he really thinking?" Now that I've seen the movie, I have to say he was the highlight. After seeing him most recently in Django Unchained, I honestly think he's one of the better actors of my generation. And though most hoity toity film critics might disagree with me (I'll torture myself later with reading bona fide reviews), this solidified my opinion. Not to mention that he is intensely physically pleasurable to look at; he seems to have been born to wear the clothes of the 1920s. He was, for lack of a more direct or better way to phrase it, a great Gatsby.
I've read the novel many, many, many times. I have never really been able to shake Gatsby or his character or his motivations or pretty much everything about him since I first read about him. I suppose that's why I like Nick Carraway so much; we have at least that in common...an admiration for and haunting by Gatsby. However, I always thought of the character as this elusive, almost mythical creature, one that even the people who knew him in the book never really knew or fully understood. The way DiCaprio has played him in this version I really felt he brought a vulnerability closer to the surface than the book really communicates. I may have even shed a tear or two for him. I mean, it is clear that Daisy is his Kryponite, so to speak, but she's utterly unrelatable and a bit of ghost so I never really felt the complete connection she inspires in Gatsby other than wanting what you can never have, but it really did come alive the way he played it. Fitzgerald is a bit sparse in his descriptions when it comes to, well, love. I really enjoyed what this version did for the character.
Speaking of unrelatable, cold, marble Daisy, I really don't like saying this because I hate it when I can't separate the actor from the character. However, despite the fact that I admire Carey Mulligan as an actress and have really enjoyed her talents in other films, I think she was wrong for this part. Daisy as I've come to know her is wispy and willowy and untouchable. Mulligan seemed way to grounded for this and I kept getting distracted by her and I haven't really been able to put my finger on why. She is very beautiful but her beauty is a very different kind to how I've always imagined Daisy. Maybe it is that she's too substantial? I know that sounds silly but I just got the feeling that Daisy as she was interpreted here was flesh and blood and I always pictured Daisy as a floating sort of wisp of a goddess that no one could ever truly possess. I mean, Gatsby makes her the object of his obsession and watching this, I just got caught up thinking I'd like to go out for a beer with Carey Mulligan. That could just be me. I did fall totally in love with her costumes. Each dress, each head piece, her makeup, her shoes, everything about her was perfection. In fact now that I think of it, her elegant clothes and the way she lounged around in them like they were everyday housecoats were probably the only things that fit in with my preconceived idea of Daisy. Not helping matters was the lack of chemistry I perceived between she and Gatsby. I suppose that goes along with the impossibility of their fate but I don't really know if that was intentional.
It also occurred to me that the actress who played Jordan Baker might have made a better Daisy and vice versa. I have no idea who that actress is or if I've ever seen her in anything before but she is very notable and my eyes were drawn to her in all the scenes she was in and she had a coldness about her that would have been more believable as Daisy.
Nick Carraway. Oy vey. Ok, so I realize the major hurdle in turning Gatsby into a film has to do with the first person narrative and that was mostly why previous versions were not that great. Apparently, voice overs have become frowned upon as too cheesy or too heavy handed or whatever the hell. And the solution the screenwriters have come up with here, the aforementioned "large liberty", is to have the story be told in Nick Carraway's voice, as in the novel, only this Nick is in a psychiatrist's office in a sanitarium. It is even suggested that this stay in the sanitarium is the result of the events involving Gatsby et al. Look, I give points for originality. I really do. And Tobey Maguire did a fine job (as he has done in the past with Peter Parker and his turn as Homer in the Cider House Rules...hmmm one trick pony?) as a wide eyed, innocent observer of the events that unfold around him. In fact, he was a better Carraway than Sam Waterston and he sure is cherubic. But every time the film took a "break" and showed scenes in which Nick is writing (at his doctor's insistence) in the sanitarium, it took me completely out of the story. I just kept getting frustrated at this new, clunky intrusion. I suppose that is how the majority of people feel about voice overs but honestly, I would have preferred that. Also, it isn't as though this change removes the pedantic nature of a voice over. It just explains it away. I suppose it gives a little more depth to Carraway, making him vulnerable to depression and a novelist in one go but still...I kinda like Nick as he is in the book. I know, I know. Shutupayo face about the book already.
Isla Fisher as Myrtle was, well cartoonish. The actress is gorgeous. Myrtle never struck me as gorgeous but rather trashy in that sort of way that men like Tom like. I suppose her very put on accent tried to do that but again, I was too distracted to believe it. I did really love the set design of her apartment, as well as that entire scene and the actor who plays her murderous husband was very good. The actor who played Meyer Wolfsheim was appropriately sociopathic and Tom Buchanan was appropriately boorish.
The costumes were impeccable, the set design was impeccable the color and tone of the film is gorgeous and glamorous and actually worth seeing in 3D. In fact this is the first time I didn't get sick watching a 3D film. I decided to watch it that way, knowing Baz Luhrman would make spectacular set designs and color some of the main focus. The standouts were of course Gatsby's mansion, the "ashen wasteland" of Dr. TJ Eckleberg's domain and of course, Daisy's green light. I'd recommend seeing this on a big screen, like a proper action movie.
So I guess I didn't hate it but I also didn't love it. I did love DiCaprio as Gatsby. The book is now and apparently always will be, better. If by some odd set of circumstances you have not read it yet, just what have you been doing in life? I keed. No but really, read it.
Did you see it? Did you like it/hate it? Discuss with me!
Side note: There were a few previews that were notable: the new Star Trek movie looks, and I don't use this word lightly: dope.
Also, there is an animated film coming out that I did not catch the name of because I was massively disgusted by the preview. I literally ripped the 3D glasses off my face because two of the main characters in this film are fucking slugs. SLUGS. What kind of a god would allow someone to create not one TALKING slug but TWO??? For the love of all that is holy. Why?