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Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann | Movie Review


I finally watched the 2013 release of The Great Gatsby last night on my birthday. When I saw that the film was coming out a while back I picked up the book and gave it a second read. I remember thinking it was pretty good in high school, especially compared to the novels we were forced to read in those formative years. My second read showed me why it, along with another favorite novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is called the great American novel. I love the novel. It is amazing. It's prose is like a rich dessert that you want to come back to again later for its deeply subtle taste that’s so nuanced and delicate. You can read the review of the novel I wrote after reading it a second time through here. Now on to my review of the movie.

At first I did not like it at all. I was pretty disappointed. It was just a bit too flashy and theatrical. It seemed a bit over the top, Almost cheesy. That's kind of how most of Baz Luhrmann's film seem to me at first though, and then I fall in love with them. Romeo + Juliet had the same effect on me. It's just so different that it takes a while for you to "get it." Once I do his films have their own kind of brilliance that I love. The Moulin Rouge! was a fantastic film. I love the songs in that one. So by the end of the film I liked it. I remember the moment now when it changed for me. When Tom hits Myrtle it snaps into slow motion and you see Nick Carraway retreat on to the balcony in an attempt to get away from it all and the camera zooms out insanely fast onto the whole city and you finally feel like you're there with Nick and you get it and everything makes sense... at least that's how it was for me. You don't really see much of Gatsby, brilliantly played by Leonardo Dicaprio, until a while after that. I had a feeling that once Gatsby was on screen I would start to like the film. I was right. You don't see much of Gatsby in the beginning of the story in the novel either, so it was fitting but it seemed to take forever to finally get to met him in the movie.

Gatsby's Mansion


One thing this movie does well is capture the novel faithfully in it's own way. I don't recall any major plot points or events being changed. Other than some of the modern music Baz Luhrmann chose to use I finally felt like I was watching the book. The further into the movie I got the more I felt it did an amazing job at capturing many of the moments in the book. Seeing Gatsby reach out for the green light. Seeing Gatsby finally have tea with Daisy and then show her his mansion. From that point on I was in and I really enjoyed it. Much like the book the movie haunts you for a while after you watch it. They did a good job leaving you with the same feeling you get when finishing the book. I'm glad they put in that last line from the novel I found in a nice graphic image here. So good. All in all by the end of the film I really liked it and now I want to watch it again. Maybe I'll end up liking the first act or so this time around. As for the novel if you haven't read it you really should. It's an amazing novel, and quite short so it won't take you that long. If you need more convincing watch this awesome video where John Green describes everything he finds interesting about the novel.

Have you seen the film? What about others by Baz Luhrmann? Do you love them hate them? Not get them or think they define eras of time? Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments. I'd love to hear from you, and thanks for stopping by.

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