The lovely Stephanie of The Anxiety of Authorship has offered her pen to a guest mook review – a two part piece focusing on “The Great Gatsby.” You can read Part One of her mook review by clicking here; an analysis on The Great Gatsby novel and the 1974 “The Great Gatsby” movie directed by Jack Clayton. Stephanie has now provided me with her review and rating of “Gatsby” directed by Baz Luhrmann, and I must say I agree with her review whole heartedly! Check it out below…
“Gatsby” - Directed by Baz Luhrmann
I wanted to like the new Gatsby movie more than I did. The build-up to it was tremendous–the stunning trailers, the talented actors, the creative and well-respected director, the Jay-Z produced soundtrack featuring huge names in music today. Like Gatsby’s invention of himself for Daisy’s approval, everything about this film is built to impress us. Though Luhrmann delivered the most entertaining Gatsby film to date, it did not reach the greatness I expected.
The main reason I can’t say the movie is great is because it includes a lot of unnecessary scenes, and also adds many unnecessary clichés to the story. I tend to be open-minded to all kinds film interpretations of books, but I could not stand that Luhrmann turned this into a story within a story with Nick telling it all to a doctor in an insane asylum. The doctor then goes on to encourage Nick to write the story out on paper, leading him to write–you guessed it–The Great Gatsby. I often enjoy unique story structures, especially when there is a writer character involved, but I felt like I’d seen this structuring a million times before. There are other minor clichés in the film, such as cuts to shooting stars in the night’s sky (for some reason that really bothered me), cuts to the green light over and over again, and the hammering of “old sport” again and again. I know that “old sport” is Gatsby’s catchphrase, but I didn’t think he was supposed to say it that much. I think the film also tries to be too sweeping with all of the flash backs to Daisy and Gatsby’s lives before living in New York–again, such scenes were just unnecessary.
Despite the above, there are many things that work. The acting is great. There is a way each character speaks that just emanates the past. Each actor mastered a Golden Age accent specific to his or her character. Leonardo DiCaprio also brings much passion, obsession, and anguish to Gatsby as a character–and it works. I was only disappointed with Myrtle. Luhrmann chose not to focus much on Myrtle, though she’s supposed to be a quite loud and ridiculous personality. There was nothing wrong with the actress per say, but I thought she should have had a larger on-screen presence. The intermixing of modern and classic music throughout the film also works, although not in the way I expected.
It’s odd. I left the theater disappointed and a little embarrassed to be wearing my Great Gatsby book cover t-shirt. But since then, I’ve found the film sticking with me–I’ve been thinking a lot about what works/what doesn’t, thinking about my favorite scenes (Gatsby and Daisy’s first meeting scene at Nick’s house, and the Plaza Hotel scene), and downloading songs from the soundtrack. This must mean something. Although the film includes unnecessary scenes, and might feed into what popular audiences want, I know Luhrmann had good intentions, and I still enjoyed his surrealistic interpretation of such a classic story. I give this mook 3 stars.
Mook Rating – ★★★