Sunday, 23 June 2013

Film Review: The Great Gatsby

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Romeo and Juliet), Carey Mulligan (An Education, Doctor Who), Tobey MacGuire (Spiderman), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Isla Fisher (Confessions of a Shopaholic), Elizabeth Debicki (A Few Best Men)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rogue)
Filmed in various locations in Australia
Based on the novel of the same name by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Synopsis: Set in Long Island, Nick Carraway recounts the events of the previous summer where he encountered the mysterious Jay Gatsby and became a part of his lavish, rich world. Nick soon discovered the secrets, obsession and lies beneath the cool, sophisticated life of Gatsby where tragedy is waiting.

Okay, so I may be a little bias in my love for this movie mostly because I had to read the book last year for my English Literature A-level and be able to analyse any part of it. Then, I did it for my coursework this year and re-read it in March.
So I know this book WELL. But normally studying a book to death means I dislike said book but The Great Gatsby was the first book where that didn't happen. I loved the symbols, the hatred you feel for the characters, the hope that Gatsby makes Nick and the reader feel, the dazzling imagery of Gatsby's parties of excess - everything. 
So I had HIGH hopes for the movie considering the 1974 adaptation is far from fantastic. 

In a word, my reaction to this film when I came out of the cinema was a simple 'Wow'. There were many things I was dubious about: the modern music, Tobey Macguire as Nick Carraway, the narrative staying retrospective. But all those worries were forgotten as soon as the opening credits started, Tobey Macguire appeared and started recounting the events of the previous summer and then when Leonardo appeared - well, I was sold. 

The thing that sticks out the most to me about this film is the characters that I think were cast amazingly well particularly Nick and Gatsby. These are far from easy roles and even in the book, it is hard to understand the motivations, the feelings and the truth to the main characters because they all feel they have to be something else to fit in with society.
 Leonardo Di Caprio isn't playing Gatsby, he BECOMES Gatsby - he shows his cool sophistication that masks his childhood, there is the glimmers of something darker in him particularly latterly in the film. He IS how I imagine Gatsby. 
I never liked Tobey Macguire as Spiderman- he was too awkward for a superhero but in this film that awkwardness works superbly for Nick who let's face it, is an awkward character stuck in the middle of a world he doesn't particularly understand unless it's to do with drinking. I absolutely loved him as Nick and although he wasn't as annoying and ambiguous as Nick is in the book, he really brought that something to Nick's character that I can't quite work out.

When I read the first reviews for the film, they all stated that they found that Carey Mulligan, playing the lead female role of Daisy, as lacking depth and in some cases annoying. This, rather than actually understand the story, showed that the writer had clearly not read the book. In my case, I liked Carey Mulligan as Daisy, a role so different to others I've seen her play. She showed me how I saw Daisy in the novel - someone shallow that is so within her own world, she doesn't even realise the damage she causes around her.

The film epitomises the idea of excess. Everything is big, everything is bold and loud and bright. In the first reviews also, I saw one comment which stated that 'It was so unrealistic. Everything was too much' which again had me wondering if the writer also hadn't read the book. I agree, Gatsby's parties, the speed of some of the shots, the colours, the filming - it is excessive. But so is the novel. I think Baz Luhrmann has done a superb job is showing the culture of the 1920's, the insane practices, the subtle warnings of what is to come in 1929 as well as the messages and illustrations F Scott Fitzgerald shows in the novel itself. As I came out of the cinema, my best friend turned to me and said 'It was like I was watching Moulin Rouge all over again'. While I haven't watched Moulin Rogue, also directed by Baz Luhrmann, I have seen Romeo and Juliet starring also Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Luhrmann. And in all honesty, I can totally see what she means. The colours, the music, the filming - it is very typical of Luhrmann's way of making films and as these three films all have the same kind of tragic love story to the plot, it does make them seem incredibly similar.

Despite this, The Great Gatsby is one of the best films I've seen this year, as well as Les Miserables. Although I knew what happened in the story, I still was surprised by the revelations throughout, still saddened by Gatsby's story and I literally grabbed my friend's hand in the final climatic moments of the film - it still had the power to move someone who knows the story inside out. I can see the understanding behind some of the critique with this film, but in my view, if you read the book then watch the film (like in most adaptations), it makes it more enjoyable watching as well as showing and appreciating the power and imagery of Fitzgerald's beautiful book that is transformed well onto the screen. This is a brilliant adaptation of one of the books in my life that holds the most memories and resonance for me. 


  1. Wow, this sounds utterly amazing! I really want to read the book before I see the film, as the writing sounds beautiful. I'm glad you enjoyed it :) Thanks for the great review!

  2. I loved The Great Gatsby book, and while I liked the film, I didn't love it. I agree Di Caprio was AMAZING as well as the cinematography. However, think Luhrmann was too literal in his adaptation, and one thing that really bugged me was how the symbolism was just glared at all the time. It was like he was going "this is symbolism", which makes it not symbolic... Great review though, it's interesting to see other people's perspective :)

  3. Good review Rebecca. Not amazing, but okay watch if you’ve never read the book. But for people that have read it; it will be a bit of a bummer.

  4. Great Review, you've made me very excited to see it! I've heard mixed reviews about both the film and the book and I'm intrested to make a opinion of my own soon hopefully, as your raving review has me longing to drive to the cinema!! I love Baz's films as they are so crazy, my mom was saying the other day how the worlds his films are set in are "unrealistic, strange, colorful, loud and eccentric" but that's what I like about them. And I loved "Moulin Rouge".


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