Brief note on THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

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4/5

Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgeralds timeless novel THE GREAT GATSBY stays true to the themes of the original, but as expected, adds a remarkable amount of visual flair and panache in its storytelling.

Luhrman is quite easily one of the most interesting directors in Hollywood today. His visual perfection is unmatched for the most, and though he tends to over indulge at times (very similar to Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Bollywood), his storytelling acumen coupled with the performances he extracts from his cast have become his signature.

The basic plot of the movie remains intact (I won’t give that away for those who haven’t grown up with the novel, I was introduced to book in 5th form English). but its the treatment that makes the movie standout.

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The movie can essentially be broken down into three acts, the first act is almost perfect as we’re introduced to the lifestyle of Gatsby, bit by bit, we get to learn about whom he is, how he lives, while the actual Gatsby is shrouded in absolute mystery. The introduction of Gatsby catapults the movies graph, and from there through to the second act, the movie is simply remarkable. The second act again picks up the graph further, however it’s the third and final act (albeit the films darkest moments) which fail this from becoming an absolute true blue classic.

What was missing? In short, the love story needed more moments between Leonardo and Carey! Granted the movie was already close to 2 hours 30 minutes, however, an extra 15 minutes could have made the difference. ROMEO+JULIET (the other love story by Luhrman with Leo) had a similar setup (epic novel, epic cast, 3 act structure), however the love story there completely was in sync with all three acts which is what made that one a true classic which stands the test of time (same can be said of STRICTLY BALLROOM).

In saying that, ,THE GREAT GATSBY is no doubt a film that deserves multiple viewings. Luhrmans absolute precision and perfection for detail has always been his greatest strength (and sometimes a slight weakness as he over indulges in parts, something which as a huge fan I’m easily happy to forgive).

Each set in the movie is like a painting on celluloid, each camera angle is a movie lovers dream, each flashback sequence marred with the individual lighting, effects and camerawork is surreal. Luhrmans signature as a director is no doubt his visual opulence, however his ability to transcend that across genres is what makes him so fascinating.

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Luhrmans signature is no doubt visual opulence, and his ability to transcend genres with that opulence. This worked remarkably well in STRICTLY BALLROOM, ROMEO+JULIET, and MOULIN ROUGE. When he changed the backdrop dramatically with AUSTRALIA, it was his most ambitious failure to date. While the detail and the rustic backdrop was remarkable, somehow the second half didn’t live up to the epic expectations set by the first (there was a distinct TITANTIC-esque feel to the whole movie too). In saying that, it was worth a watch alone for the camerawork alone.

With THE GREAT GATSBY Luhrmans attempts his most ambitious film to date, and for the most, succeeds with what is easily a near masterpiece.

The performances in the movie are of a high order. Leonardo DiCaprio rarely disappoints, and this easily ranks as one of his best performances to date (which is saying a lot given his performances in WHATS EATING GILBERT GRAPE, SHUTTER ISLAND, BODY OF LIES, BLOOD DIAMOND and THE DEPARTED). He lives and breathes the part, and plays both elements of his character with absolute precision. His angry outburst alone shows his command over the performance. Carey Mulligan is great, though one wishes her character had been better etched. The crucial element which would’ve catapulted the movie to an all time classic is the love story element, and I somehow felt that this lacked the absolute emotional connection needed overall. Tobey Macguire is good, and leaves his mark in front of a towering Leo. Joel Edgerton is an absolute knock-out. His performance as the key antagonist is simply brilliant and he leaves a lingering mark. His face-off with Leonardo is fantastic and he leaves an unforgettable impression everytime he is on screen.

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Bollywood legend, and one of my absolute favorite actors of all time across all realms of cinema and all the ages, Amitabh Bachchan, makes a brief, yet unforgettable appearence as Wolfshiem. Wolfshiem barely appears for 20 minutes in the entire movie but leaves a great amount of impact. A ferocious screen presence coupled with his signature baritone ensures that Bachchan stands out, though it is somewhat strange to see him play a Jewish Mobster in a Hollywood film, he leaves his mark. It is somewhat strange to think that to a large part of the Western world, this is the first time they would be introduced to Amitabh Bachchan, when his body of work in Indian cinema is something legends of World cinema would envy on every level. The absolute combination of a star-actor and method-actor in one.

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Elizabeth Debicki is absolutely gorgeous and dazzles. Isla Fisher is stunning as always.

All said and done, THE GREAT GATSBY is well worth a watch in cinema. Its majestic, its magnificent, its opulent, its a near classic for the ages, and despite its shortcomings in the third act, its something that deserves to be seen on the big screen. BRAVO!

Prashant Harish Hari

5 Responses to “Brief note on THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)”

  1. “..he tends to over indulge at times (very similar to Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Bollywood), …”
    My thoughts exactly…I thought it was just me. Nice review Hari

    Like

  2. Thanx for this review masterpraz–I liked GG a lot…
    Some of my random rants posted here–
    https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/a-gatsby-vijay-interlacing/#comment-219804

    And with the box office showing, all the box office ‘pundits’ & ‘intllectuals’ are again red-faced.
    Just like in Yjhd, they don’t realise that movie-viewing isn’t an analytical science—it’s predominantly an ‘instinctive’ decision geared towards entertainment and ‘gratification’ (of various forms).
    Will come to this in detail —but having not read the book before—
    The characters stayed with me–
    Of nick caraway & ofcourse gatsby,,,

    Like

  3. Heyy Prashant .. Great to see you back. Super cool review of one of best movies I have seen in recent times.

    Like

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