13. The Great Gatsby (PG-13) - Runtime: 142 minutes
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan
Director: Baz Luhrmann
I wish Baz Lurhmann would do more movies. In his 20 year career, he's only directed 5 feature-length movies. Which is sad - he has a great creative voice and vision that's hard not to enjoy. I even thought Australia was a good movie (good, not great)! Call me crazy! And while I really did enjoy his adaptation of one of America's greatest novels, I felt the movie didn't reach the lofty heights of his greatest movie - Moulin Rouge!.
For those who skipped out on the reading assignment in high school, The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway, a bond salesman in 1922 who seems to want more out of life. When he gets invited to one of his neighbor's extravagant parties, he meets and becomes close friends with the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. But Gatsby has a lot of skeletons in his closet and honestly just wants to be loved by a woman he could never get. There's a lot to digest in the story - themes of the American dream, social upheaval, decadence and excess - all are briefly touched upon in the movie.
While the heavy themes may weigh down any other director, Luhrmann takes the chance to lavish all his attention of the decadence of the 20s in America. The parties are opulently staged and its excessive eye candy is too much to take in at times. But that's the point - the parties are bloated representations of these themes and one can see that the parties are going to be crashed hard in the near future with the Great Depression looming. Despite that heady reading, the scenes themselves are just fun and there is so much to take in. It's like in Hellboy II during the market scene where you could pause and just marvel at all the detail and what's happening. This is true of Gatsby's parties - you could pause the movie and find something new every time. And top that off with an extremely catchy and grandiose soundtrack, it just makes these moments pop!
And if the first half of the movie is where it shines the brightest, the last 45 minutes become depressingly slow and could have been paced better. All of the parties are done and there's nothing left to do except drive to the inevitable conclusion (pun intended!). And while there are still some strong moments in the end (specifically the "party" at the hotel in New York and Nick's visit to the empty halls of Gatsby's palace), it felt oddly slow and needing of better editing.
As for the cast they all are really good - DiCaprio really deserves a nomination for his performance. But Joel Edgerton steals every scene he's in - he's a hypocritical playboy and Edgerton really gets the character - he's insecure to the core, but he sure makes a scene and in the hotel room really lets loose all those insecurities out on Gatsby. Mulligan has the perfect look for Daisy Buchanan and she plays her with doe-eyed naivety and wonder. Maguire is good too, but his character is merely a siphon through which we see the story unfold. Plus you have Isla Fisher (one of the more under utilized actresses out there) and Jason Clarke, both good actors who give everything they got for this movie.
This is most certainly an adaptation worth seeing - it's unique and utterly entertaining. Plus the acting is superb and the movie is just fun to watch! The soundtrack is amazing and the film does a good job of taking you to the party.
Rating: See It!