The Great Gatsby was my second most anticipated film of the 2013 summer season. The movie had huge shoes to fill, not just because I was excited for it, of course, but also because Baz Luhrmann directed one the finest musicals ever released in Moulin Rouge. So how does Luhrmann’s latest effort hold up on its own?
I never read the classic novel that this film is based on, so I knew was that Gatsby was a “man of mystery with a secret”. The film starts with an almost zany approach, with weird camera angles, and overacting silliness; it gets the viewer in the mood for one trippy experience. That implied experience is delivered in spades during the first hour of the film thanks to a mix of modern artists blaring rap across crazy-fevered parties. There are also a number of throwbacks to Moulin Rouge in this time: some of the dance moves, and the party atmosphere of that film’s larger numbers, for example.
After the first hour of rowdiness, The Great Gatsby develops a more serious tone, and this is when the problems arise. I understand the metaphors, and why Luhrmann does what he does here, but the acting by the female cast isn’t very good, which makes it hard for the audience to care about what happens to any of them. The male actors, in general, are much stronger, but are much less important until the film’s finale. Once the party stops, the fun disappears.
The Great Gatsby is not a terrible film by any means. It oozes with style in the first hour, and the amount of set detail is mind numbing. Even the music, while out of place for the time period, brings the craziness alive. But that’s the thing: the film is very much alive while the actors just go through the motions. There is never any commitment from anyone in the film. Instead, they are just backgrounds for the beautiful sets. The story itself isn’t very good, either, and I question how this could be a classic story of literature. The ending just feels so wrong. But, hey, maybe that’s the point. Nothing is ever as it seems in The Great Gatsby, and the trailer follows suit, pushing those same beautiful sets and vibrant music that can only really be seen in the first half of the film.
Also note that I watched this in 3D, which did absolutely nothing for the viewing. Very minor things pop out and it never brings the drug-induced scenes to life as one might hope. While I wouldn’t say it’s worth your hard-earned cash or your precious time to view it in theaters, it might be worth a viewing at home if you’re that interested in it. Otherwise, pass on The Great Gatsby.