And I admit, I was one of those swept up in all the excitement, the product placement, the magazine covers, fashion collections, and design of this film.
So much so, that I found myself at the movie theater this morning at 10 AM buying a ticket to the movie. As much as I love Hollywood and movies in general, I rarely go out of my way to see a film. But I did for this one.
I’ll admit, the first fifteen minutes of the movie had me convinced I would leave disappointed, hating Baz Luhrman’s interpretation of 1920s New York. For whatever reason, Tobey McGuire’s portrayal of Nick Carraway fell flat in the first quarter of the movie, and that got the film off to a rough beginning.
Then I remembered how much the book is like that, too. The story doesn’t really get started until a few chapters into the narrative. I also reminded myself that the film is a Baz Luherman one, and that means everything is going to be a caricature-the costumes, sets, acting, pacing, and music. He tells a story from a very specific point of view, and it’s unfair to judge his work without that in mind. He’s sometimes a bit over the top with his themes and preferences.
He didn’t stray from that standard with this film.
After a few minutes more in the theater, I leaned back and just enjoyed what was on screen before me. The film is gorgeous, beautifully shot, and masterfully edited. Leonardo DiCaprio shines as Jay Gatsby, adding a depth and hopefulness Robert Redford lacked in the same role. He’s having fun, and once he makes his entrance, the audience does, too. I think my favorite scene in the film was his fated reunion with Daisy at Nick’s cottage. The tension, humor, sadness, and significance of that moment just clicked.
Carey Mulligan is a fragile, tender Daisy Buchannan, and she too, sets a tone for film. For the most part, I liked her. However, when the inevitable fall out of her recklessness occurred at the end, I didn’t see the depth I expected from the complex, beautiful fool with a dark, dark side I envision to be Daisy. Most underused were Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Debicki. These ladies both stole their few scenes as Myrtle and Jordan, respectively. I would have loved to see more of them in the film.
It’s a long film, at over two hours and twenty minutes, but in the end it’s worth it. It’s a cool, slick movie that capture the furtive, youthful nature so many of us have come to associate with the Roaring Twenties because of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. It also adds a little something extra–which I can’t place–to this story. Everything feels fast-paced and furtive, as if every second without some fatal error is a miracle for these characters. Maybe that’s, in the end, why I loved it. It took me there.
It gave me a few moments in an Art Deco dream. I got a chance to reflect on an imaginary world where even the 1920s are better the second time around. And that is exactly what I wanted out the movie.