The first and most obvious reason is the sheer visual splendor; it’s a delicious smorgasbord of colors and costumes and scenery. Luhrmann has an incredible artistic vision that we’ve been privy to before (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet), and it culminates here in this juxtaposition of tawdry gaudiness and ethereal beauty. His over-the-top stylization is perfect for the Roaring Twenties and for the decadence of the people being portrayed. The casting was also excellent, for the most part. I wasn’t expecting much from Carey Mulligan as Daisy, but since I’ve never cared for Mia Farrow’s rendition in the original, I figured I’d stay open. I was very pleasantly surprised. She is the perfect mixture of charm, weakness, and hysteria without being shrill (the trap Mia Farrow fell into). Joel Edgerton is magnificent as Tom Buchanan and adds a misogynistic flair to his portrayal that pushes Daisy’s nervousness into real fear; it makes her weakness slightly more forgivable. And of course Leo is wonderful. His Gatsby is more vulnerable than Redford’s Gatsby, and therefore more endearing. The sweetness of his smile is truly touching and softens the fact that he is just the tiniest bit too old to be playing this part (he may look good, but he doesn’t look thirty-two). Gatsby has “an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness,” and Leo captures this aspect of the character beautifully, as well as Gatsby’s passion and determination. The two scenes that impressed me the most are his first meeting with Daisy and the hotel scene when he confronts Tom; his performance is riveting.
But how did it stack up against the book? I have to be honest, it fell short. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to viewing it again at home when I can pause and pay more attention to detail, but there is a sorrow and a beauty in this book that is difficult to capture on screen…there is an element that is as elusive as Gatsby himself. Fitzgerald created a character that is part larger than life, part dreamer, part fool. His foibles and even, at times, awkwardness, make him irresistible to tender hearts. Normally, I would be revolted by a man whose sole aim in life is to win back his old love even though she is married to someone else. Like Nick, I “thoroughly disapprove” of Gatsby, but despite my disapproval, his humanity and charm move me.
“He smiled understandingly--much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”
POSTED BY: L.R. Blizzard