I am grossly obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio. Shortly after seeing Inception, I was hooked. I bought used copies of most of his movies off of Amazon and had a complete Leo marathon. Websites such as Tumblr and Pinterest didn't help my growing obsession. I clipped pictures out of magazines, bookmarked countless interviews from YouTube, and enjoyed a summer filled with arguably the dreamiest guy in America.
The Great Gatsby, a classic American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is one of my favorite books. I've read it several times, and the older I get, the more I've learned to appreciate the story of glamour, love, greed, and the corrupted American Dream. So, it was fate when it was announced that my dream guy, Leonardo, would be playing the title role in Baz Luhrman's film adaptation of the novel. After waiting for months, and then getting a teaser trailer last May with promises of a Christmas release, and then having that release date pushed back to July 2013, and then moved up to May, The Great Gatsby officially opened in theaters on May 10, 2013. Despite the fact that my AP English Language exam was the next day, I HAD to go to the Thursday night 10 p.m. showing. Who needs studying when you could be enjoying a promising summer blockbuster? (Disclaimer: Do not follow in my footsteps, studying is always the best choice, I probably made a bad decision, etc.)
That being said, The Great Gatsby lived up to my (high) expectations. Through many different elements, this 2013 rendition of a timeless classic felt as if the pages had come to life. As a some-what fantastical novel, director Baz Luhrman transports his audience into the era of the 1920s, but with modern edge and a flair that could only be captured in the world of film. His quick camera movements and dizzying displays of color and glitter captured the "hysteria" of early 20th century New York City, all while encompassing the unique nuances and eccentricities that Fitzgerald had tucked away in his novel, waiting for the reader to discover.
Perhaps this is where The Great Gatsby is losing audience members. If you've seen other reviews, you'd know that Gatsby has been getting a mixed response (but this shouldn't deter you -- Fitzgerald's novel also received mixed reviews upon publication and sold quite poorly in its first years). While it's generally agreed upon that the acting is A+, Luhrman seems to be getting a bad rap for his stylistic directing. After seeing it in 3D, I admittedly felt overwhelmed. You want to catch every detail, and remember every special moment that Luhrman draws from the novel.
At first, this seems like a bad thing, but maybe the entire purpose of presenting this film in 3D was to allow its viewers to become immersed in the culture and craze of the 1920s, and the emotional spectacle of Gatsby's impossible dream. When fringe dresses fly out from the screen, and fireworks seem to light the theater, it's as if we are guests at one of Gatsby's lavish parties. When the glare from the green light shines out, we are reminded that Daisy is just across the bay, and we have hope, just as Gatsby does. To be placed in the midst of all that is beautiful about the novel allows us to experience The Great Gatsby in a way that has a feeling apart from any other big screen adaptation, and I am grateful for this. However, like I said, this exciting revelation for me might not necessarily appeal to all lovers of the novel. It is impossible to have The Great Gatsby without glittering parties and grandiose displays of wealth, but some believe Luhrman's dedication to this aspect of the novel is overdone. With anything transferred from text to film, there are details left out and moments missed, and it's unfair to compare the two with a fine-tooth comb and a magnifying glass. I love the book, and I love the movie too. For some, it's either one or the other, and that's okay too! The most important thing is to appreciate that a film and book can never be completely alike, and that despite its slight shortcomings in that regard, The Great Gatsby is a beautifully made film and accomplishes something new with an American classic.
As for Leonardo DiCaprio, I could write an entire blog on how his crystal blue eyes glimmer and the left side of his mouth does this little dip when he says "old sport" and how his skin is perfectly bronze and his hair is perfectly coiffed BUT I'll save it for another time. Something that I've always loved about DiCaprio's acting is the way he seems to draw from past roles, all while bringing a fresh performance. As Gatsby waits for Daisy to arrive for tea, you can catch a glimpse of OCD-plagued Howard Hughes from The Aviator; as he tosses shirts down at Daisy, a flicker of Titanic's Jack Dawson shines across DiCaprio's face. It allows the film to feel intimate and special, as if DiCaprio has found a way to "repeat the past," as his character Jay Gatsby insists is possible. Likewise, Joel Edgerton has a standout performance as "hulking" Tom Buchanan, husband to Gatsby's long-lost love, Daisy, and maniacally materialistic and morally corrupted. In the film's most climactic scene, DiCaprio and Edgerton share an intense chemistry that would make F. Scott Fitzgerald proud.
The most interesting portion of the film is most definitely the music. Known to always include a killer soundtrack on his movies, Baz Luhrman (with the help of executive producer, Jay Z) modernizes the 1920s with the richness of 21st century hip-hop, along with some alternative pieces. Luhrman has likened today's hip-hop with the influence of jazz on the 1920's, and rightly so. Nothing feels more right than Watch the Throne's "No Church in the Wild" blaring during a dazzling party scene, nor more visceral than Jack White's wailing take on U2's "Love is Blindness" during a dramatic driving sequence (and if you've read the novel, you'll know that the scene ends with quite a crash). Luhrman's musical choices enhance the brassiness and excitement of the era, and are a perfect fit.
The 2013 Great Gatsby is not the 1925 Great Gatsby, and it simply can't be. Baz Luhrman has created a new Long Island, a new mansion on West Egg, and a new green light across the bay, and audiences should embrace this. The Great Gatsby is a glittering string of parties and money, but at its core, it is a testament to the determination of the human spirit, and the reality of the American Dream.
Oh, and did I mention I've seen it three times already?