Friday, May 31, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Although I've still been going to the movies once a week at least, I have had a hiatus on blogging reviews due to being hideously busy work and home wise. However, if there is one film that I will come out of my self imposed exile to review, it's this one old sport. Bring out the Baz haters, come one come all to the verbal and personal Luhrmann lynching, and bring your family too to give him a good kicking while he's down..except he's not down because the people have voted with their feet and the theatres are full. I wonder if these nay sayer reviewers have even seen the movie, or understand the book by F Scott Fitzgerald for that matter. Baz Luhrmann is a wonderful director of some genius, who has a certain style, it may not be to everyone's taste, but it is perfect, perfect for The Great Gatsby. I personally adore all of his work except for Australia which was woefully miscast but still had some magical moments. Baz is a story teller in the truest sense of the word. His movies are fairy tales or fantastic fables, not documentaries or word for word transcripts of books. I won't go into the story too much, most of us are very familiar with it. It is an American tragedy as Greek as they come. It's a story of enduring misplaced love, friendship, lust, jealousy, greed, hope, selfishness, singleminded devotion... and carelessness. Sadly, for people as cynical as me, it's a confirmation of all that is wrong with the world. But it's a beautiful story. Seen through the eyes of writer turned banker Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), it's the tale of Nick's next door neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) a billionaire party thrower who never seems to attend his own events and is illusive in the story and for the first part of the film. Nick has a beautiful cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) who is married to a brute of a man, Tom (Joel Edgerton), rich, arrogant and compulsively unfaithful. Nick is thrown into a world he is unfamiliar with, parties and gossip, sex and alcohol. Gatsby slowly befriends Nick and asks to meet Daisy through him, at Nick's house. It turns out, however, that Jay and Daisy know each other from five years before, and so unravels a story so heartbreaking, it will seep into your psyche leaving you with a sense of utter sadness yet with a lingering feeling that perhaps something wonderful may just happen. Much has been made of the fact that the film is too over the top. Well, yes it is, in the parts that it's supposed to be. The parties are an orgy on the senses. As they are in the book. It's an integral part of the story that these gatherings are debauched and wild. It's kind of the point. They are shot beautifully and are such an assault on the senses you feel as if you've gate crashed them yourself. Much criticism has been thrown at Luhrmann for the use of modern music, especially Jay Z's involvement. I'm not a huge fan of that type of music so write honestly when I say that it just fitted in perfectly. There was music from the twenties era too in the film, but bringing more up to date styles ties us to the story in a contemporary way and makes us feel more connected to the movie rather than it feeling like a period piece. Baz has always done this, listen to the music in Moulin Rouge! and I doubt very much whether the band Garbage were around in William Shakespeare's time, but their music was used to devastating effect in Romeo + Juliet. The other parts of the film were not at all over done, unless it was called for as in the scene where Nick and Tom party way too hard with Myrtle and friends. A lot of it was incredibly nuanced and quiet, a perfect and deliberate contrast to the lunacy of the parties. Tobey Maguire has been singled out as being rather bland. I think that's the whole point. He's the anchor, the narrator and is the everyman. Everyone else has large personalities, he is the quiet voice of reason. I thought his performance was heartfelt and set just the right tone. Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan was also critiqued as being a 'one note player', I disagree. Joel Edgerton is a well known and respected actor/producer in Australia, and America will be seeing a lot more of him in the future, I predict. The character of Tom Buchanan was only really one note; I have met a few Tom Buchanan's in my time (though sadly not as attractive as Joel) and there wasn't much else to them but the one note, sometimes only a quaver.... Tom does reveal a different side as well towards the end of the film, and is in no way two dimensional. Isla Fisher is superb as Tom's blousy mistress Myrtle Wilson, I would have liked to have seen more of her, as is the again underused Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker, the Art Deco beautiful love interest of Nick. There is even a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance by the mighty Baz himself. Carey Mulligan would not have been my choice for Daisy. In no way do I mean this disrespectfully or unkindly as she is very lovely... but she is not beautiful. After seeing it though, I have changed my mind, not because I suddenly think she is beautiful, but for two other much more important reasons. Firstly, she is an excellent actress and physically perfect in stature and demeanour. The second reason is thanks to the immense talent of Leonardo DiCaprio. His performance is so convincing as a man in love, that you realise it matters not a jot what you think of her. Jay. Loves. Daisy. I have read no negative comments about Leonardo's performance, but not nearly enough praising it. For the first twenty minutes you barely see DiCaprio. He is a shadow, glimpses here and there, a tantalising side view, a build up of curiosity. And then... against the back drop of a wild party, the music crescendos, fireworks explode and in this orgasmic build up...Jay Gatsby appears...and it's like the sun coming out after an earth shattering storm. His incredible beatific smile lights up the screen, this golden man, full of mystery, life, love and hope. But there are plenty of beautiful men in Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio is so much more than that. His performance displays the multi dimensional aspects of a man on the edge. Gatsby's self assuredness melts away whilst waiting in Nick's home for Daisy to arrive, revealing some fabulous physical humour from Leonardo an as yet untapped talent for comedy. The heartbreaking moments when he is just looking at Daisy, it's rare to see an actor so convincingly portray someone so in love, heart and soul. The furtive glances and sideways looks as he's desperate to shield those he cares for from his financial dealings and shady business associates. Jay's desperation as things unravel with Daisy and his unwavering loyalty, innate goodness and singleminded hope for the future. If I was reviewing any other actor I would say it's a career defining role. For Leonardo it's not, all his portrayals are of this calibre. He is without a doubt, the greatest American actor of all time. This is a brilliant heart breaking roller coaster movie, with some truly perfect moments filled with romance and the glamour of the movies. Thank You Baz Luhrmann. A more fitting title for a film I couldn't find. THE GREAT GATSBY: Gatsby. The Great 10/10.