I’d read so many reviews of this movie that I didn’t know what to think going into the theater tonight. I did know that I wasn’t a fan of the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version of the film (I hadn’t seen the previous two) and I’d given director Baz Luhrmann’s last venture, “Moulin Rouge,” an “A” for effort but hadn’t really enjoyed it.
And yet I loved Luhrmann’s “Gatsby.” Yes, it’s irreverent in that it throws Jay-Z at the jazz age and uses digital effects when conventional camera work would be more expected and casts Brits and Aussies in quintessentially American roles. And yes, it’s campy and excessive (in Luhrmann’s world, more is always more) and jam-packed with party scenes that can be exhausting. But in many ways it’s truer to the novel than I expected. In fact, Fitzgerald’s words are lifted right onto the screen – literally – and the bittersweet tone of the movie is his.
DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby is every bit as beautiful as Redford was but much more animated. He’s a man obsessed and yet full of hope – charismatic and enigmatic, generous and dangerous, a master of contradictions. Carey Mulligan is a good actress who does her best with the character of Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s devotion, but I kept wishing for an actress with a more commanding screen presence. I can’t stand Tobey Maguire’s voice, so having him narrate much of the film wasn’t my favorite element. But I loved the music and loved the cinematography and loved how Luhrmann went boldly into this adaptation and made it his own. It was that rare film that compelled me to stay through the credits, because I was so captivated by what was on screen.
This one, like “Django Unchained,” is definitely in the hate-it-or-love-it category. When I asked Michael what he thought of it, he said, “Liked not loved.” I guess there’s another category too.