The Great Gatsby (2013)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Adaptations get so dreary once they become commonplace, don’t you think? Thank goodness for Baz Luhrmann, who has taken F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, adapted for the big screen four times prior, and created a bold, daring new blockbuster for today’s crowd.
A tale of love and lust, mystery and deceit, hope and tragedy, “The Great Gatsby” has been read and suffered-through for years by millions of high school and college students. It’s a classic, a literary giant. But its adaptations stayed true to form; old, slow, and stale. Luhrmann’s new take on the old tale is far from that. It’s fresh, exciting, titillating, and most of all, flashy.
It’s rare when a soundtrack receives immediate consideration in my review. But nothing about “Gatsby” made me as happy as the selection of music it offered. No Al Jolson or Louis Armstrong here. No, sir. Instead, Jay-Z (also an executive producer), Beyoncé, and Jack White all make appearances on the soundtrack. Awesome. Who better to be the background music to a Gatsby-sized New York City party than Jay-Z? The impressive selection of songs, remixed with jazz influence to really bring in the 20s, take these party scenes and make them relevant. It says, “I’ll see your weekend, Gen-Y, drunken college escapades and raise you a giant fireworks display accompanied by a full band, a shower of confetti and champagne, and a huge pool filled with conservatively-dressed ladies and giant inflatable zebras. I’ll raise you a Gatsby party.” Try to beat that. You can’t. But this soundtrack is the perfect complement for the party of the lifetime.
Nobody looked at the billing of huge stars and thought “Hmm, I don’t see the potential but perhaps they’ll surprise me.” It would have been ridiculous to doubt this impressive selection. Jay Gatsby, from his debonair introduction to the audience to his unfortunate fate, is played with sincere emotion and passion by the only man who really could: Leonardo DiCaprio. Really, though, who could possibly be so mysterious and charming as Leo? Carey Mulligan is all elegance as Daisy Buchanan, and Joel Edgerton her dark, fiery-tempered husband Tom. Tobey McGuire rounds out the cast as the narrator, Nick Calloway. If you know McGuire, you know he’s able to play a sold role without exactly stealing the spotlight. He was a great choice. They all work together fabulously. Along with Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke, the famous love pentagon is completed.
But it’s the special effects that really set “Gatsby” apart. 1920s NYC looks nothing like the Big Apple today, so they gave it a makeover. They threw it in a time machine and softened up the edges when it came out. What we get is a beautiful new metropolis, glowing and buzzing and doing exactly what the art directors want it to do. Because it’s theirs. And the live-action blends seamlessly into the CGI world around it. It’s a thing of beauty. A masterpiece. The whole thing is, really.