I’m just going to be really personal on this review because I have never loved any book as much as I love The Great Gatsby. The book is a symbol of the American Dream, although I am not American. Jay Gatsby is a constant reminder to be aware and not let that dream go out of my grasp. Nick Carraway has been vital to my personal emotional development. Needless to say, since the first time I heard about another Gatsby movie, I have been having withdrawal syndrome.
It has been a known disappointment preemption to not expect too much from a movie based on the classic novel, especially a novel that is considered by many one of the most beautifully written books of all time. F. Scott Fitzgerald writes the grandest sequences of words that eloquently elaborate emotions and desires. And to be fair to Baz Lurhmann, he seemed to have been aiming to be the F. Scott Fitzgerald of films. It is the only good excuse I can find for this somewhat unsatisfactory film.
Let’s discuss the positive points of this movie first. Nick Carraway narrates the story and writes the book, giving Fitzgerald’s own voice to be heard, or in Nick’s word’s, “he is within but he is without”. Unlike previous adaptations, that relied on the script being entirely taken from the book, Luhrmann’s version bridges Nick Carraway and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s almost similar persona. Surprisingly, Tobey Maguire proves to be a better actor than Leonardo Di Caprio, or the role fits him better. Carey Mulligan is also stunning and frustrating as Daisy Buchanan. And probably the whole redeeming factor of the film is the ending, where Nick walks on the dock, imagining seeing Gatsby by its end trying to grasp the symbolic green light while the mist tries to hide it from him, and the last lines from the book literally floats on, it is perfectly what I have imagined the last part of the book would be.
One of the low points of the film is probably the whole exaggeration of the imagery that book subtlety conveys. Luhrmann tries hard to emphasize elements thus making the whole thing saturated and scattered with representations of what Gatsby has stood for and his underlying search for Daisy’s love. He told so little by telling too much. Di Caprio’s interpretation of Gatsby is less mysterious than what he seemed to be. The movie does not give the audience a peek at the other side of Gatsby, they focus too much on him being a grand gentleman, and almost no dubious activities are hinted. At some scenes where he’s being charming, he transforms into Leonardo di Caprio circa 1997, my childhood crush. The ending where Gatsby dies in the pool and he muttered Daisy’s name is probably the cheesiest scene I have seen in movies. The script does not help at all. Being a beautifully written novel, although they could not outwrite Fitzgerald, they could have at least thrown in words worthy of The Great Gatsby. The writers also overkilled the expression “old sport”. Unexpectedly, the music turns out to be less of a factor for such a story set in a period defined by music.
Overall, The Great Gatsby is visually grand compared to previous films. It is completely different from the book yet you have to read the book to fully understand the whole lavish parties, Gatsby’s love for Daisy and Nick being a real bro thing. We remember the last Gatsby movie we saw as the version that is truest to the book; we will remember this one as the most colorful one.
6/10: For Tobey Maguire.
I was running five minutes late for the screening, the cashier hurriedly gave me my pass and my receipt, I walked into the cinema, five minutes after, I saw the opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness which I watched 24 hours ago. Imagine my frustration. Fortunately, the manager was kind enough to trust my “I watched this last night! I called you guys earlier so that I can catch this screening and now your cashier gave me the wrong ticket” alibi. I love The Great Gatsby like Gatsby loves Daisy.