Please don’t read if you don’t want to see spoilers!
When I went to see The Great Gatsby last week, I was thoroughly excited. I had the whole tingling feeling you get when you’re stood in line at the cinema, clutching your tickets in one hand, and your reluctant boyfriends hand in the other. One of my favourite books, a story filled with hope, however misguided that hope is; and I’ll admit, I was slightly apprehensive. Baz Luhrmann has a gift for the visually astounding, yet my fears lay in this glamour detracting too much from the already stunning story.
But I must say, I was not in the slightest disappointed. From the opening scene, I was sat on the edge of my seat, lost in the atmosphere and the astonishingly opulent scenery. Tobey Maguire is an actor I’ve enjoyed from the Spiderman trilogy, and I’ve unfortunately not had chance to experience his talent in much else. But I have to say, his interpretation of Nick Carraway, was true to the book: quiet, observant, hypocritical, and full of admiration for Jay Gatsby. Nick’s role is secondary to Gatsby, observing and relaying the Roaring New York socialite activity whilst passing judgement throughout, despite his claims that he’s inclined “to reserve all judgements”.
Tobey MacGuire looked perfect in the role of a hapless writer turned stockbroker, and I was very pleased with the more passionate scenes involving Nick, such as at Gatsby’s funeral and his very tangible grief. This is another reason to bring a companion; tissue storage and dispenser (necessary for this film!)
Carey Mulligan also delivered a stunning performance as Daisy Buchanan. Head to toe in real diamonds, (well done costuming department!) she looked every inch the elegant, upper class, old money, trophy wife. When she was first introduced in the film, with her beautiful, relaxed appearance, I knew she was the perfect page-to-screen Daisy. Carey is a beautiful actress, no doubt, but her appearance is not the only thing I mean: it was the air she carried about her, the constant underlying sadness in her eyes, and the self imposed vacant, emptiness I often felt that’s present in the book and thankfully remained in the film; a testament to Mulligan’s skill.
I could gush further about the fabulous casting, Elizabeth Debicki’s ice queen attitude as an aloof independent modern woman was perfect. Again, props to the costume department for their work. Jordan Baker is undoubtedly one of my favourite characters and to see her on the Big Screen, as strong a presence as she was in the book, was truly refreshing. It is my personal opinion that there are not enough women like Jordan portrayed in the film industry, and I was so stunned by her throughout the film. Women who can thrive and succeed in such intense patriarchy are fantastic role models to young girls, and it is shame that more Jordan Bakers aren’t shown. But it is true that the star of the spectacle, was Leonardo Dicaprio.
Having first fallen in love with Leonardo in 2001, the first time I saw Titanic, I was six, so lets use the term ‘love’ fast and loose, I’ve been a major fan of his, in his acting and his environmental work. I know I’m not alone in thinking he’s quite dishy, you know you agree, but there is something in Leonardo’s acting that elevates him above the typical Hollywood approach to some actors (“he’s cute, cast him regardless!”)
Dicaprio has talent, sheer, unabashed talent. I have admired him in such versatile roles, my favourite film of his being The Basketball Diaries (I strongly recommend this film, it is very.. powerful) which sees him play Jim Carroll, a troubled teen suffering with a severe drug addiction. Since 1989 when his career began, Leonardo Dicaprio has grown and flourished into a well seasoned actor, with plenty of big hits under his belt. My personal inner fury that he’s not yet won an Oscar shall be kept out of this review, (I’ll allow it to fester some more and save it for a Dicaprio dedicated article) but what I will say, is that I was truly moved by his Gatsby. His aloof outer shell slowly fractured throughout the summer, and his downfall was a mirror image of the book’s protagonist yet added something so fresh to it. The confrontation in The Plaza had me on tenterhooks and when Jay Gatsby finally broke in front of Tom, my hand flew to my mouth in…well, shock. Leonardo’s acting was so intense and emotional, that I had tears in my eyes. Dicaprio has a way of presenting a characters pain in such a way that it moves the watcher intensely. I tore my eyes away from the screen to people watch, and noticed that my boyfriend aside, who may as well have been asleep, similar reactions were had all around me. I have to say, in my eyes, Dicaprio was entirely flawless. I can’t fault him.
Such beautiful scenery, such elegant costuming, and such a fantastic selection of actors. But I believe a soundtrack can have as great an effect as what you’re watching, and I held great faith in Baz Luhrmann’s previous movies to deliver a fantastic soundtrack. You’ve only to watch Moulin Rouge (a film in my top 10!) to know that modern music will not necessarily be out of place in Charleston loving New York. Beyonce takes on arguably one of Amy Winehouse’s best, ‘Back to Black‘, Florence and the Machine, Gotye and Sia all feature, really bringing the film to life and into the world of the 21st century watcher. The track to listen out for though is easily Lana Del Rey’s ‘Young and Beautiful‘. It’s moving, it strikes home with many young listeners, it practically screams Daisy’s character. I just cannot get enough of this song, it is so haunting, Daisy and Gatsby’s illicit dance in the moonlight, it was just spine-tingling.
So if I haven’t convinced you that this film should be on your DVD shelf the day it’s released then that’s a true shame, because even if it’s not your favourite book, The Great Gatsby will absolutely immerse you in the extravagence, the affluence, and the raging, roaring, frankly riotous Golden 20s, and by the end of the tale, you’ll be left utterly speechless.
Hattie J. Baker