The Great Gatsby – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

greatThe Great Gatsby – 3.5/5 – I think I have said this before in a previous review; movies are left up to the individual, regardless of popularity.  No matter what you like/dislike or look forward to, you never know if you will love or hate a film till you see it.  Sometimes, you get hunches (based off actors, directors or themes) that a movie might go one way or another, but in the end, you will need to experience it.  In watching this movie, it is one of those films that fills the core of ‘experience’.  It is a movie worth the experience, but still misses a lot marks.  In all actuality, what makes or breaks this film will be the overall experience, and even for some miscues, the perceptive values at the heart of the film are what will make you realize, the experience mattered.

Premise: It is the time of greatness, and would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) feels it’s time to capture the moment, leaving the Midwest for New York City in the spring of 1922.  This time in New York, it is an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks.  Chasing his own kind of American Dream, Nick rents a place next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).  Also, across the bay from his place and Gatsby’s is his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).  What ensues a magical sense of bliss, hope, intrigue, and the all right description of always living up, even when all isn’t what it seems to be?

The main character in this movie is Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire.  He is the eyes into the ever lush 1920s, and narrator of the main story.  His aspect of life is that of a sponge, as he becomes a caricature of purpose.  In this, his purpose of the film is to show the light upon a man known as Jay Gatsby.  In being put in this position, his role is left in reliance with interactions of the other characters in the movie.  This holds back any kind of character development, as Maguire is just a ploy for the main focus of the movie, Jay Gatsby.  In this role, we have an excellent actor playing Gatsby, Leonardo Dicaprio.  Him in this role is one of the finest moments of the movie.  Dicaprio gives us a creation of someone that is more than the glitz and glamour of the times, but someone that hides behind this façade.  Behind it, you have a compassionate and hopeful human being, who has humility, even as he coast with rich and fame.  All the shades of his past, present and optimistic future is grounded in a humane feeling, which is both enduring and pure.  The innocence he provides helps us connect with him and his goals, and ultimately the film.  He commands every scene he is in, no matter if he is interacting with Carraway, his long lost love or anyone in the movie.  Outside of his marvelous performance and Toby Maguire narrating character, everyone else in their roles are one dimensional people, built upon the ploys of style instead of story.  This is very much prevalent in the other two big characters of the film, the cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her husband (Tom Buchanan).  There is a saying about that you must engross a character and provide distinct value, but there is a line you cross when you overact a character, even when it comes to be creative or vivid.  Their gimmicky and melodramatic portrayal is nothing short of disappointing.  They drown out emotions with overreaching to provide aspects that are void of any kind of connection, that it comes off cartoonish and somewhat unappealing.  When they interacting with the other two main characters, it seems that there is more in providing something of flair instead of providing a character that is worth watching.  This same feeling also trickles down to the rest of the supporting cast and other individuals who populate the screen.  From the city residents, to the coal miners, to the party entertainment and businessmen, there is a sense of too much influence of ‘glitz and glamour’ more than character.  This hurts the film’s characters a lot, as well as the story.

Within the direction and the script, it feels like a tug a war.  In the beginning, we are introduced to a world (in the 1920s) that is over-the-top, outlandish and stylistic.  Paralleling these saturated visuals Is the introduction of Carraway, and his ideals of fulfilling an American Dream.  This looseness of his passion also intertwines with his neighbor, Gatsby.  The mystery of ‘who is Gatsby’ takes up the first half, as the allure is there, but this story development is drowned out by the directors instance on visual appeal  This bravado to show everything in bright array of colors and artsy stage practices drowns out the whole mystery of ‘who is Gatsby’.  The director is the same director behind Moulin Rouge, so there is an expectation of an aesthetic appeal to be particular in directing.  The difference is, he puts way to much emphasize into ‘style over substance’, when he could have melded it together.  He never melds to the two well enough to start out, and the story (of the first half) gets lost in all the colors, overacting, music and visual nonsense.  Once the film gets pass the introduction of the three characters (Daisy, Tom and Nick) and finally shows us who is Gatsby, the film slows down, and the meddling style becomes engrossed into the story.  This slowdowns helps produce something that is more interpersonal and relative.  As the movie progresses between these four characters, you realize that all the riches that Gatsby has, it is a façade and genuine appeal to draw the love of his life back to him.  This, in turn with the combination of his humility and grounded personality, helps bring out the greatest aspect of the movie; which is hope, purpose and dreams.  The dialogue is amazing, and the love entanglement helps infuse purpose, realism and vigor with the flair of the movie.  This also helps build a great second half of the film, and you become attached to the characters in different ways.  The layering helps create a vision of reality for the audience, and draws upon a structure that makes the climax all too real and saddening.  Once the credits role, you feel a part of you is left to wonder the meanings of the ending, even when the artsy feeling gives an aftertaste.

This is one film that the visuals both hurt and helped the film.  The designs that showed the aspects of the 1920s is very astounding.  From the cars, clothing, building and overall creation of New York, you feel a part of the world, and completely encapsulated by its aura.  As much as it does this, the stylistic aspect in the creation also hurts the film.  The reason is, is the direction relies heavily on the colors and the artistic appeal, that the background it is supposed to be becomes the forefront, creating the ‘style over substance’ scenario.   The world becomes a character when it should have just complimented the story and characters.  The score is a hit and miss at times in the film.  A lot of the music is very ‘modern’ so it contradicted the times, creating a detachment to the emotion it was meant to create.  Even for this, the music sometimes does hit strides in certain ‘dramatic’ moments, creating the emotional event when applicable.

Overall, The Great Gatsby is like a bag of mixed Jelly Beans.  You have a lot of great aspect of the film, from the story, the humanity themes and Dicaprio’s acting.  At other times, the film falls flat because of the overuse of visuals, music and over the top characters in by all the other actors/actresses.  I’d say, as I did in the beginning, it is a film left to the audience and their own experience of it.  If you’re a fan of the book, Dicaprio or the director, or want a decent film to watch over the weekend at the theaters, this is one to check out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *