My Very Opinionated, Very Nitpicky, Very Detailed, and Very Long Review of “The Great Gatsby” (2013). Millions of Spoilers Abound…
Hello darlings! Long time, no see. I’ve had a pretty harrowing semester, but by the looks of the grades that I’ve gotten so far, it looks like all that hard work is going to pay off! On Sunday, my friends and I celebrated the end of the semester by going to see the new Gatsby film at a fancy theater in Union Square. We were all so pumped, but no one was as pumped as me. I’ve loved the book for many years and I’ve read it over and over and over again. To me, one of the most beautiful things about Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is how, almost a century later, it still resonates so strongly with young people like myself. I can’t fathom people who don’t like this book and don’t like anything Fitzgerald has written. If you are one of those people, you should just get out of here right now. You don’t deserve to read books. Or have opinions on them. Or live.
However, after the two and a half hour film came to an end, I was all torn up. I didn’t really know what to feel about this “Gatsby.” The rest of my friends either really hated it or felt ambivalent like I did. Out of four stars, I’d give this film two. So here’s my review detailing all the good, the bad, and the ugly about this film. It isn’t a classic film, but it is a classic story, so this counts for something, right? If you haven’t seen it yet and plan to soon or if you’re reading the book in preparation for seeing this film, then I advise you to stop right here, because I’m going to be throwing spoilers around like there’s no tomorrow.
Nick Carraway: Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? Unless you live under a rock, you must know that The Great Gatsby (the book) is told from the point of view of Jay Gatsby’s average Joe neighbor, Nick Carraway. Nick has just moved from the Midwest to my glittery, glitzy city: New York. Nick’s not in Kansas anymore. When the film opens, we see our pal Nick in a sanitarium for alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. His doctor advises him to write, since “writing gives [him] solace,” as Nick himself says in the film. So, whaddaya know, Nick ends up writing the story of “The Great Gatsby.” As this plotline was unfolding in the film, I was like, “WHAT. IS. THIS.” In the book, there is no sanitarium, Nick goes back to the Midwest. In the book, it is very subtly implied that Nick is Fitzgerald’s alter ego, but not in the standpoint from writing the book. Rather, he is his alter ego in that he is a Midwesterner who is exposed to the different world full of glitter and flamboyance and money–the world of 1920s New York. Nick’s observations in the novel corroborate with Fitzgerald’s own opinions on 1920s materialism. This doesn’t mean that the film should’ve went so far as to completely REPLACE Fitzgerald with the Carraway character!
Anyway, let’s move on to Tobey Maguire’s interpretation of Nick Carraway. Maguire has never been a favorite actor of mine. I don’t really know how he made it in Hollywood. The only explanation I can think of is that he really worked that casting couch. For me, Tobey Maguire wins the “Most Painfully Awkward Actor to Ever Grace the Screen” award. Because of this strange plot point of Carraway actually writing the novel, we get a lot of Maguire reading famous lines from the book, including the opening line and the immortal closing line. I don’t know what’s wrong with Maguire, but he, like, couldn’t pronounce ANYTHING. The dude was blundering around with the gorgeous lines and making them sound clunky and awkward. Verdict: Tobey Maguire can’t read. At all. He’s illiterate.
Jay Gatsby: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby kinda fell in the middle for me. He is suave, debonair, and as fresh as a cool blast of air in a muggy July afternoon. Just look at that face, everyone. He is swoon-worthy, and did a pretty good job of capturing Gatsby’s all-consuming infatuation for Daisy. It shows in literally every facet of his personality. DiCaprio also captures that aura of frantic-ness that permeates Gatsby’s life (since he is obsessed with making up those lost five years with Daisy). However, what I really didn’t enjoy about DiCaprio’s performance was THAT. ACCENT. What was it even? Was Jay Gatsby supposed to have an accent in the novel!? HUH??? DiCaprio spoke in this mix of New York accent and British accent (at least that’s what I THINK it is…) and it made me realize just how disgusting those two accents sound blended together. British people pronounce every letter in their words and speak at a pretty moderate pace, for the most part. But us New Yorkers can’t really be bothered with speaking clearly and slowly. Or with pronouncing 75% of the letters in a word. THEY’RE OPPOSITE ACCENTS. If a mess could speak, it would sound like Leo’s Gatsby. Actually, if a mess could speak, it would sound like Tobey Maguire. If confusion could speak, it would sound like Leo’s Gatsby. It was so bad that my friend kept whispering “old spawt” in my ear the whole train ride home until I yelled at him to shut up. A scene that irritated me was the one in which Gatsby is shot to death in his swimming pool. Of course, I was tearing up and thinking “Noooo don’t die!” The irritating part was that of course he dies saying “Daisy,” while I’m thinking, “DON’T DIE WITH THAT BITCH’S NAME ON YOUR LIPS.” And how about his entrance in the film? I wish I could enter every social function with a come-hither smile on my face and a glass of champagne in my hand, while fireworks explode behind me and “Rhapsody in Blue” swells in the background.
Daisy Buchanan: Carey Mulligan’s Daisy just wasn’t careless enough for me. You get the whole “dumb blonde airhead money-obsessed nasty bitch” personality from her, but not as intense as it should’ve been. You still do hate her, you still get frustrated with her stupidity, but Mulligan made it very hard to make you really feel all those feels for her so much. She was meh. I don’t really know why. I guess I just don’t like Carey Mulligan.
Myrtle Wilson: I LOVED Isla Fisher’s Myrtle Wilson. She was absolutely perfect: a beautiful yet trashy and cheap-looking woman, which is exactly what Fitzgerald was going for in his novel. You can even hear it in her accent. While Daisy has a high-class, hoity-toity, put-on New York accent, Myrtle has a loud, common New York accent. The subtlety with which she did that was great. Her death scene (like everything else in this film) was really over the top and in your face, but that wasn’t her fault. She is one of the delights of this film. And is it just me, or does Fisher’s Myrtle Wilson bear an exact resemblance to Clara Bow?! I was blown away by it when I noticed it while watching the film!
I thought it was really clever that Myrtle seemed to have modeled herself after the most popular and desirable actress of her time. However, I’m not 100% on that feeling, because it might purport the image of Clara Bow as trashy and loose in her ways, an untrue rumor that ruined Bow’s life and reputation and still tarnishes her to this day.
Tom Buchanan: The second really great performance in this film was Joel Edgerton’s as Tom Buchanan. He was exactly how I imagined him when I read the book. Big, strong, brutal, cruel, controlling. and unfeeling. He was a cold bitch of a man. And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Edgerton makes you scared of him, scared that if one of the characters step just one toe out of line, he would lash out of nowhere and use that giant temper and giant body to destroy someone. By the end of the film, all that fear you have been feeling morphs into absolute disgust–which is perfect. Just. Perfect. Props to Joel Edgerton for his awesome performance.
Jordan Baker: Elizabeth Debicki’s Jordan Baker was another delight to watch on-screen. This long, lean lady didn’t give a crap about anyone but herself. Debicki gives Jordan that wonderfully sinister edge…she can be your best friend one second, but throw you under the bus in the next. Whether someone in the film loved Jordan or hated her, it was all the same to her. That is kinda admirable in a woman, in my opinion. I often found myself wishing that Debicki could’ve been cast as Daisy instead of Mulligan–her personality was on point.
The Music: Going into the film, I was scared shitless over the music. The soundtrack was being supervised by Jay-Z, for fuck’s sake. I knew it was going to stink to high heavens. I knew it was going to make me cry. I was right…to a certain extent. Some selections made me facepalm, such as Jay-Z’s “$100 Bill” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” (shameless plugging of wifey dear’s music, obviously), and overall it was much too modern for my taste. Some selections cracked me up out loud, such as the Dracula-like organ music that played as Nick went to his first Gatsby party. Even though I felt that the music should’ve stuck strictly to 1920s jazz and dance music, some of the modern pieces had a heavy vintage influence, such as Will.I.Am’s “Bang Bang.” The one modern song that I was so in love with and DIDN’T have any vintage influence to it was Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful.” The song is so relatable and so haunting, clearly resonating with the message of the film perfectly. Of course, the 1920s jazz and swing was perfect and lovely, and save for “Young and Beautiful,” it should’ve been the entire soundtrack. I’m a sucker for old music.
The Visuals: I’m going to post some photos from the film and let them do the talking for a bit:
Needless to say, my jaw dropped about every five minutes over the breathtaking mise-en-scene in this film. It was so Twenties: big, loud, flamboyant, beautiful, colorful, wild, glamorous, vulgar…it was so ME. This is the stuff I love, the stuff I want in life. “The Great Gatsby” is perhaps the most aesthetically beautiful film I’ve ever seen. I’ve been obsessed with this time period for many years now, and seeing these images just intensified my desire to leave this ugly, broken time we live in now and instead go back to this gorgeous, infamous time in history. This is a Baz Luhrmann film, and love him or hate him, his works are immensely pleasing to the eye. The visuals were easily the best thing about this film, along with…
The Costumes: I would chop off my right arm for the clothes in this film. I would kill for the clothes in this film. I would die for the clothes in this film. A lot of these characters had the shittiest personalities ever conceived, but damn, they looked like heavenly angels of perfection. Designer Catherine Martin (who’s also Baz Luhrmann’s wife) did an incredible job of creating costumes that were historically correct yet desirable to the modern woman. And as you all know, I am a head-0ver-heels sucker for historical accuracy. Being a woman who takes pride in her wardrobe and who loves collecting vintage and vintage-style pieces, I applaud Martin’s work here. I’m also just as fascinated by men’s fashion as I am with women’s fashion, and after seeing the men’s costumes in this film, I vowed to myself to marry the first man I see who can wear a suit like Jay Gatsby. There’s NOTHING sexier than a man who takes care of his clothing and appearance. Let’s look at some of my wardrobe favorites:
My favorite costume in the whole film is a black robe and hair scarf that Daisy wears when she commences her affair with Gatsby. I can’t find any full-length shots of this costume, so I’ll post the best that I can find. This costume is so simple yet so glamorous and high fashion.
More gorgeous costumes:
The Symbols: Okay, now this is the thing I hated the most about this film. It automatically assumes that everyone in the audience is a bunch of dumb fucks who don’t read, and every single symbol and theme of The Great Gatsby is explained to you outright. This film was about as subtle as a freight train coming right for you. Fitzgerald’s novel was beautiful because even though it is about a lavish, loud time, it is so subtle and intimate. This wasn’t an intimate night at the movies. There was nothing for the audience to figure out, nothing for them to look for, which is the most fun thing about watching a movie (for me anyways). I love figuring out the little connections, the subliminal messages, the clever links. But here, I didn’t get that satisfaction at all. Even though I already know the meanings of the images in the story, it would’ve been so gratifying to see them play out in the film. But no, instead the audience is TOLD what the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg mean, why Nick Carraway becomes disgusted with 1920s New York (and in the novel, ultimately returns to the Midwest), why Daisy cried over the shirts, and what the green light means, among other things. We’re not dumb over here! The film could’ve been much better if it just employed some subtlety where it was needed. Some of the effects were kinda cheesy too, especially when seeing the film in 3D (which we did, unfortunately….3D gives me migraines).
WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT THESE SYMBOLS MEAN YOU DON’T NEED TO TELL US, BAZ LUHRMANN THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
So, that’s my review! Feel free to sound off on your opinion of the film, darlings!