Posted by Alia Haddad on May 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm
Yes, it is true: Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby came out weeks ago, but ever since I had been dreading seeing it. This dread was less like the dread I felt with something like War Horse, which I dreaded and subsequently haven’t seen, and more like the dread I felt surrounding Lincoln in which I dreaded it but knew I had to see it. Side note: what is it with Steven Spielberg films as of late that I dread? Anyway, so I dreaded The Great Gatsby, but knew I had to see it before it left theaters, which in turn made me dread it more.
Dragging my feet, I finally saw the thing last night, and it, quite expectedly, justified my hymning and hawing. It’s just that to take such an epic book and turn it into a movie, it better be a damn good movie. And this version of The Great Gatsby was no such thing. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio did a good job– as good a job as he always does–but that’s pretty much the highest praise I have for this movie.
Other than DiCaprio, the acting was rather throwaway. Carrie Mulligan was fine, Tobey Maguire was worse, Jason Clarke was cute, and so it went. There was one exception other than DiCaprio: Joel Edgerton did a good job, which I suppose is fairly unsurprising if you know his body of work well, but given that I didn’t, it was a pleasant surprise.
Outside of the acting, what else could go wrong? I mean, since the plot comes from the book–and the book is a renowned classic–what else could possibly be bad? Well, I’m happy you asked. Everything that went wrong can be summed up in what word: spectacle. Before the film came out, everyone seemed to tout the word ‘spectacle’ around like it was a good thing. Luhrmann was praised for doing this movie because his other films–Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, even Australia–were spectacles. Surely everyone thought that The Great Gatsby, too, needed to be a spectacle. But with a movie full of anachronisms whose plot is anything but–that is, that is great precisely because it takes into account the time period–the movie fell flat. The editing, the music, the footage all seemed out of place and further added to a feeling of irrelevance that seemed to surround the film.
What should have been a commendable adaptation–this being the first big screen one since 1974–turned out to be a lackluster representation devoid of what made Gatsby great in the first place.