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A Little Party Never Killed Anyone, Old Sport
By Annie Tisdale
If you’re looking to get out of the summer heat, hitting the movie theater is always a great option. Nothing interesting to watch, you say? Then how about trying a second-run theater for a movie you may have already seen, but is well worth another look. The Great Gatsby (2013), directed by Baz Lurhmann (Moulin Rouge), is a 3D spectacular of vividly colorful revelry set in the excesses and overindulgences of the roaring 1920’s. Based on the classic American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lurhmann’s film aptly illustrates an emerging world of receding morals, materialism, and decadence.
In the pursuit of the American dream, writer turned bond salesman, Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire), arrives in New York and moves in next door to the enigmatic millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) who throws extravagant, over-the-top parties. After being personally invited by Gatsby, Nick attends one such party and meets the mysterious man himself. Later, he learns of Gatsby’s elaborate plan to reunite with his old flame, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). But, does he truly love her or is he only obsessed with what she represents?
DiCaprio does an admiral job portraying Gatsby with all of his affectations, old sport. By the way, he says that phrase…a lot. It was annoying after awhile, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying what I believe is one of the most visually beautiful movies of 2013. The initial reveal of the secretive Gatsby to fireworks and “Rhapsody in Blue” is absolutely stunning. In any case, DiCaprio’s faltering British accent and awkward mannerisms are true to the book. He pulls off the character with as much charm as is to be expected of characters that overall aren’t very pleasant.
At the heart of all the glitz and glamour there is coldness and a lack of soul, but not due to bad direction. One of the themes of the story is the emptiness at the center of the materialism and the pursuit of gain; the American dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The rest of the cast also contributes to this slightly magical and unreal adaptation with exceptional performances.
The Great Gatsby is filmed in the quick, manic style of Baz Lurhmann, a-la Romeo & Juliet (1996) or Moulin Rouge (2001). The rapid pace of the first half may leave some viewers a bit dizzy. But, come the second half, the film slows down and focuses more on the characters and less on the immense festivities. The character Jordan Baker played by Elizabeth Debicki makes note of such social functions, remarking that “(she likes) large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” Her views are proved right when Jordan, Nick, Gatsby, Daisy, and Daisy’s husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) wind up in a small hotel room and begin airing grievances. The second part of the movie is decidedly darker than the first.
Another interesting aspect is the music. There was a lot of fuss about Jay Z in the Jazz Age. I was wary of this when I first heard about it, but it somehow works. The soundtrack contains jazzed up, glittery versions of hip-hop and pop songs, giving The Great Gatsby a slightly modern feel. There is a direct correlation that Lurhmann attempted to make between jazz, prohibition, and today’s society that becomes evident throughout the movie. And in the end I feel the choices in music revitalized a story that could’ve ended up as another stuffy period film.
The Great Gatsby is a movie best viewed on the big screen. It’s less of a history lesson and more of an experience in artistic expression. It’s imperfect, but it’s fun. So give it a try, old sport!