DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead. Don’t read on if you plan on watching The Great Gatsby. :)
The first and last time I read the novel was in high school, so I was very rusty on the details upon entering the movie house. All I remembered was that the ending was tragic. And that even as a teenager, I loved and enjoyed the book.
Another thing that made me really excited about the movie is the fact that it was directed by one of my all-time favorite film directors, Baz Luhrmann. Sure, not a lot of people get his vision — he’s really all for visual spectacle and the use of contemporary music for classic stories (case in point: 1997’s Romeo + Juliet, also starring the very talented Leo DiCaprio), but being the naturally dramatic person that I am, I love absolutely everything he does! To this day, the aforementioned Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge are two of my favorite movies. I haven’t seen his other Nicole Kidman movie, Australia, so I can’t really comment on that one. Heehee.
If you know me, you know that I only write reviews about movies that I absolutely enjoyed and that I found valuable lessons from, so you would know that this is one of those films. The Great Gatsby, a novel by one of America’s greatest authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, is considered a literary classic for good reason. It really is, at the core, a morality tale minus the self-righteousness and the preachy tone.
I will no longer provide a summary for it because I’m sure all it takes is one Google search, so I’m just gonna go right ahead with the review.
First, the technicals. Visuals were perfect, as per usual. The art director should seriously get an Oscar for his work! Even the obvious green screen parts worked. The sets and costumes were so beautiful, Jacky and I kept saying how much we want to live during that era! Luhrmann really captured the glamour and the excess of the roaring ’20s, when alcoholism was the bomb and excessive partying was not just socially acceptable; it was also encouraged.
When I found out Jay-Z was producing the movie, I had a gut feeling he was also going to meddle with the music. And I was right. At first the whole idea of his involvement made me feel uncomfortable, as I loved the book and I’m just generally protective of things that I love. But even the music felt right. I was never a huge fan of Lana Del Rey, but her song “Young and Beautiful” was so wonderfully integrated into the film that I am considering listening to her music now.
And I remembered one thing my brother told me when we were watching Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (a period movie which also used contemporary music): “I get what the director is trying to do here. Of course the music historical people listened to would be classical to us now, but to them those songs were probably rock and roll.”
All the actors were great — Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan have always been very reliable actors. You always know they would show up, do a good job and prove themselves worthy of the roles given to them, and this movie was no exception. I used to have problems with Mulligan before, as I have always felt that she’s the same in everything she’s in (she’s kind of like Jennifer Lawrence in that regard), but in this movie, that one character she can play, worked. Although I would have hoped for someone more playful, someone who seems like she can really make you fall for her one second and then rip your heart out the next — Rachel McAdams or Emmy Rossum, for instance. Mulligan made Daisy Buchanan very sympathetic, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing. DiCaprio, on the other hand, embodied Jay Gatsby. It was so kilig the way he was nervous about seeing her again after 5 years!
The only flaw to an otherwise really good film, I felt, was Tobey Maguire. If only because he still freaking reminds me of Peter Parker! You know an actor is a one-trick pony if he never changes in anything he does, and Maguire is just that. Which is sad, because Nick Carraway is obviously central to the story, even though he’s mostly just a spectator. I would have picked someone like James Franco for the role.
The other actors, Elizabeth Debicki, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher and the guy who played the grieving husband (forgot his name, heehee) were all good as well.
I love how Luhrmann didn’t compromise the story. Of course nowadays anyone who films in 3D format will be accused of distracting the audience from a below-average script, but this time I felt like it was really a conscientious, creative decision. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the storytelling aspect.
Three things that stood out to me while watching the movie:
- When you’re in love, you tend to love an idea, not really a person. That, I think, is what happened with Gatsby and Daisy. Gatsby was so intent on the idea of building a future with her, even to the point of doing illegal and morally reprehensible things, just so he can “earn” or “deserve” her (ironically, it’s proven that in the end, Daisy is the one who doesn’t really deserve him, not the other way around). I just hope that one day, when I fall in love, it will be because I love the person, not just the idea of him. I would see him as a completely flawed and broken person, yet I would still choose to love him, even when I don’t feel like it.
- The American dream isn’t really all that much. The world has a tendency to place value on a person based on how much they have — and Gatsby has fallen prey to that. It’s great that in the end, he found out that if your identity is hinged on your net worth, then it’s pretty easy to fall apart when the going gets tough.
- It’s really important to speak truth and life into the people you care about. I was so emotionally invested on the bromance (read: close, platonic relationship between two heterosexual males) between Gatsby and Carraway, and I kept waiting for the latter to JUST FREAKING TELL JAY TO GET OVER DAISY ALREADY, because it was going to ruin all of them! Lo and behold, that didn’t happen. No, Nick just stood there and let terrible circumstances happen to his friend and to his cousin. One of my favorite bloggers recently tweeted (not verbatim), “Tell people how to be sexy and you’re a great friend. Tell them to care for their soul and you’re a judge.” And I felt like Nick was being a “great friend”, tolerating Jay’s madness instead of telling him the truth he needed to hear. I’m glad that in the end, Nick was able to affirm Jay — “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” — but it was too late. It’s my prayer that all of us will find friends who won’t be afraid to correct us, because we all have the tendency to think that we’re doing great even though we’re not, and sometimes we need an outsider’s perspective to be honest about our blind spots. I’m so thankful I have people like that in my life.
Well that’s it. I know it’s currently getting mixed reviews, but I still absolutely enjoyed it and hope that people will give it a chance. 5/5 stars. :)
P.S. This character map is so cute!