Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Movie with Abe: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Released May 10, 2013

Director Baz Luhrmann has now made just five feature-length films over his twenty-year cinematic career. All of them are distinctly stylized and colorful, featuring extravagant characters, costumes, and sets. “Moulin Rouge” earned him an Oscar nomination and took home two other awards, while his most recent film prior to this, “Australia,” flopped, netting less than half its $130 million budget in ticket sales. Luhrmann’s latest effort, an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, has already exceeded that box office benchmark. This is a return to what Luhrmann does best, showcasing another time period lavishly, best described as an eye-popping exercise in excess.

The way that Fitzgerald’s story of a mystery millionaire and his curious neighbor in 1920s New York City translates to the big screen is visually mesmerizing. Its characters stand out from their backgrounds, and both boast decorative colors and details. The stark difference between the natural beauty of the Long Island waterfront homes and the bustling city is well represented in the strip of garbage-filled desolation that separates the two, and which all must pass through on a car ride or train commute into the city. The preposterously expensive parties that Gatsby throws are particularly astonishing, and it’s hard not to be hypnotized by the glamour of these people and their lives.

There is an extreme melodrama to be found in Luhrmann’s adaptation which is in keeping with Fitzgerald’s tale, and something that is portrayed to great effect by the actors within the film. Tobey Maguire exemplifies the passive but intrigued observer, while Leonardo DiCaprio easily assumes the part of the eccentric and charismatic title character. Two actresses prove especially hypnotic in their performances: Carey Mulligan as the lovelorn Daisy Buchanan, and Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki, who energetically inhabits the role of Daisy’s good friend Jordan Baker. Also in the ensemble are strong turns from Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, and Joel Edgerton.

This is, all above else, a production. The human drama that exists between the film’s primary characters is central to the film, but its most compelling scenes are those that contain hundreds of supporting players, dancing, partying, or simply being to a truly catchy beat. The purposeful incorporation of anachronistic music gives the film a truly dreamlike and intoxicating feel, one that is at times alluring and at others off-putting. While the film often feels overdone, there’s something undeniably appealing and interesting about the characters contained within it.


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