As you probably know, I'm leading a read-along of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald over on my book blog right now. Until this month, the only movie version I'd ever seen was the 1949 one that stars Alan Ladd (you can read my review of that one here). I decided that I'd like to see as many of the other movie versions as I could while I'm reading the book, and I started with this one.
Overall, I did enjoy this movie. I was a little put off at first by the framing device of having Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) at a sanatorium being treated for alcoholism and depression, and writing out this story as a form of therapy. Wasn't sure I liked that for a while, but in the end I think it worked quite well because it provided a reason for Nick to be telling this story. Books don't always need that the way movies do.
Baz Luhrmann is always such an interesting director. I love his Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Australia (2008). Like a lot of what he did for Romeo + Juliet (1996). Here, I felt like he tapped really well into the hedonistic angles of the story while also showing the decaying underbelly of society. I already knew he was great at melding modern music with period settings, and I thought overall the music really helped bring out the similarities between the anything-goes spirit of the 1920s and today. In some ways, it made the story even more unsettling, which I appreciated.
The cast overall was very strong. I am not really a fan of Leonardi DiCaprio, but he definitely can act very well when he wants to, and he clearly wanted to for this piece. You're not going to believe this, but I found his Gatsby equally as sympathetic as Alan Ladd's. I really wanted to jump in and rescue him. His was my favorite performance here, by far.
I hadn't realized that Elizabeth Debicki was in this -- I absolutely love her as the villainess in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), and it was so cool to see her pop up as Jordan Baker! I thought she was very effective in the role, capturing Jordan's swagger and cool charm. I'd like to see her in more things.
Joel Edgerton made a really good Tom Buchanan, I thought. Tom needs to be physically intimidating, but also sophisticated and confident. Hard mix to pull off, but I very much believed Edgerton in the role. I even felt a but sympathetic toward him a couple of times, which I had not expected.
As for the rest, Carey Mulligan was acceptable as Daisy Buchanan. I never felt she was quite alluring enough, but she captured Daisy's shallow selfishness quite well. Tobey Maguire was fine as Nick Carraway -- nothing special going on, but I didn't wish he'd been recast or anything.
Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson were kind of forgettable for me. They're the two that I really feel were much stronger in the 1949 version -- I cared so much about George Wilson in that one, and here I couldn't have picked him out of a lineup if I tried. So in that sense, I think they were kind of a fail.
Overall, it's a pretty faithful rendition -- maybe kind of show-off-y in its faithfulness, actually. "Look at how much of the book's dialog we can cram in! And all the symbolism!" But I definitely would like to see this version again some time. I could have done without the scene where someone gets Nick high on alcohol and an unspecified pill at the party in the NYC apartment, though -- I'll likely fast-forward through that part next time.
Is this movie family-friendly? Not really, no. There's some violence, several instances of implied sexual activity, much of the plot centers on Tom Buchanan having a mistress, and there's some scattered bad language. Also, the weird scene where Nick gets kind of high is very unnecessary and not in the book. Not for kids or younger teens, for sure.