Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby Review

The Great Gatsby is a classic novel written by F Scott Fitzgerald back in 1925. Originally it didn't sell well and got mixed reviews by critics. When Fitzgerald died in 1940, he died thinking that The Great Gatsby was a failure. Shortly following his death, the popularity of the book skyrocketed to the point where it is viewed as one of the great American novels and is oftentimes used as required reading material in high school English classes. Personally I somehow managed to sneak through life without reading the book, so in seeing the movie I had the unique prospective in having no idea how the movie was going to turn out. With this also comes the fact that I won't be able to compare the book and the movie, but after seeing the movie I did some reading up on the story line of the book to help readers out. In converting the book into a movie, it has been an especially long wait for audiences as it was originally set to come out Christmas of last year, but instead of trying to compete with The Hobbit, Les Mis, and Django Unchained, it opted to open between Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. That was a risky move, but one that has worked out as The Great Gatsby opened up to $50M and thanks to Iron Man 3's huge success, The Great Gatsby gets the honor of having one of the biggest opening weekends ever for a movie that didn't open number one. Going into it, I actually had pretty low expectations because of the poor reviews it was receiving. Because of that, it turns out that I was pleasantly surprised because I found myself enjoying the movie.

Before I go into anything else, I want to start by saying that I felt the movie had a bit of an identity crisis. And I am not referring to the story or the acting, I'll get into that later, but I am referring to the visuals and the music. The movie is staying true to the novel and is set in the 1920's. In doing so, it is trying to be a visual masterpiece and has the 3D to go with it, but at the same time it tries to look like a 20's movie and it just clashes heavily because it can't decide which one to go with. I think it would've been much better had if it had chosen to go with the Captain America feel. Captain America was a movie set in the 40's that had an old fashioned feel like a 40's movie and that worked super well and added greatly to the awesomeness of the movie. Had it gone with the Captain America feel, I actually think this would've been a fantastic movie, but instead it was just visually confusing, which consequently was quite distracting from the overall tone of the movie.

The music wasn't as bad, but it had similar problems. The original score was credited to Craig Armstrong, who is best known for his work in Moulin Rouge, another Baz Luhrmann movie. However, I was rather impressed at the number of songs that were in this movie. When the credits rolled along and got to the songs section, it was a list that went on a lot longer than most movies. There were a lot of songs in the movie written and performed by "Shawn Carter" as the credits kept saying, or better yet, "Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter". Most of us just call him Jay-Z. Anyways, back on track, with all that plethora of music, it seemed like half of it really set the tone quite well, but yet there was a lot that was simply distracting. A good example of scenes that had both distracting visuals and distracting music in my opinion were the party scenes in Gatsby's home. There were times where I just wanted to plug my ears while facepalming. Added to that is that especially in these scenes, but also in others, the 20's feel seemed exaggerated. Instead of feeling like I was actually in the 20's, I felt like I was watching a movie where everyone, especially the background people, were trying super hard to look like 20's people and it was rather embarrassing.

That being said, most of that was in the first half of the movie. Halfway through the movie, I was wondering what I got myself into because, as one who never read the book, I was also seeing a boring movie on top of all that which was looking like nothing but a cliche romantic drama. Man and woman loved each other, but were separated for five years. During that span of time, woman gets married to an idiot and man improves his life to impress woman. After five years, man tries to win woman back. Predictable ending right? Well, no. I won't divulge what happens in case there are a few of you out there that never read the book, but the ending takes quite the wild turn and thus touches on many common social problems that were really prevalent back in Fitzgerald's time as well as our time, thus is why it is considered one of the greats in American literature.

The second half of the movie, starting when the real drama started to unfold, I thought was fantastic. This was due to an excellent story that was written well by F Scott Fitzgerald and nicely adapted into a modern movie. What carried the movie was fantastic acting. Specifically speaking, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Joel Edgerton were amazing. Carey Mulligan was the girl caught in between the two and she also did great as the snobby rich girl caught in between the two men. Then we have our narrator/main character played by Tobey Maguire who gets caught up in this whole thing. I was overly impressed by Maguire's performance, but I also didn't hate him. He did a decent job. Then as our last main character in the story, we have Tobey Maguire's love interest played by Elizabeth Debicki. Apparently as I read over the book's story line, she was an actual love interest and played a decently big role in the book. In the movie, she was just there and the love interest really didn't exist, so her character was actually quite useless. Isla Fisher and James Clark play side characters in the movie that turn out to be rather important and I loved their performances in the final scenes.

Overall, this is a movie that I think is worth checking out in the midst of a busy summer. It's not going to go down as one of my favorites of the summer, but it is a decently done adaption of a classic novel and if you can look over the messy, confusing visuals, you might find yourself like me by actually enjoying the movie and pondering over the points that F Scott Fitzgerald brought to the table when he wrote this book almost 90 years ago. I give The Great Gatsby a decent 7 out of 10.

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