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The Great Gatsby - Film Review

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by Adam Versaci (subscribe)
I'm a screenwriter living in Perth with a passion for film and the arts.
Published June 9th 2013
"You can't change the past, Why of course you can"
Gatsby cover
Gatsby One-sheet

*WARNING: This review contains spoilers*

I would love to view the world through the eyes of Baz Luhrmann,. even if for only a short while, just to experience how this brilliant man sees. If I hazard a guess I would say his vista would be a kaleidoscope of colour and music; well that's how his films are portrayed.

In The Great Gatsby, Luhrmann thrusts his audience back into the roaring 20's in the only way he knows how, lavishly. The first time I read The Great Gatsby was back in high school and I could barely remember it so I revisited the novel from F.Scott Fitzgerald in anticipation of this film's release. I can say that Luhrmann and his writing partner Craig Pearce have done Fitzgerald proud as the film doesn't deviate much from the original work.
Leonardo DiCaprio
Jay Gatsby

Whilst reading the novel, I tried to imagine how one might tackle this from a filmmaker's perspective; with great difficulty I'd imagine. The book has a huge following thus Luhrmann was under immense pressure before the camera was even switched on. Adaptions of classic work such as The Great Gatsby provides filmmakers with the enormous task of preserving the integrity of their source material, whilst satisfying the built-in audiences. Clocking in at a slim 170 odd pages, the novel is a quick, yet satisfying read. The film runs for around 2 hours and 20 minutes, which by today's standards is quite lengthy. The film passed the bladder test but I did shuffle in my seat a few times, which tells me the film is dragging a little.


What length will a man go, to chase the love of his life? For Jay Gatsby, this involved a transformation of self and station so he could enter the world of the American upper class. But what happens, when you have everything you could possibly ask for? You want more, naturally.

I believe F.Scott Fitzgerald had a healthy disdain for the American bourgeoisie of the 20s. The premise of the book as well as the film seems to be that no matter how hard you try or how much hope and love you may have, you will never be able to become more or achieve more than your station in life permits. Pretty bleak outlook if you ask me, however an effective vehicle to coalesce the narrative and premise.

I cared about the characters in this film, and I cared about their wants. I was rooting for Gatsby, I wanted him to win because perhaps I see a little of myself in him. I think there is a little of Gatsby in everyone. I mean we all want to be better, we wish to have more and to achieve more. This was enough to tell me the story was a success. It also teaches us that sometimes we should be happy with what we have, rather than wanting too much.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire
The Barber Club

Cinematography, music, and all that jazz

Luhrmann has a habit of cinematically overloading the eyes and brains of his moviegoers. Not that I was complaining, but I felt that perhaps the audience might be so engaged by the visually spectacular pictures flashing before their eyes, they could potentially disconnect with the story and purpose of said visuals. Luhrmann quintessentially loads his films with visual imagery, a little heavy-handedly at times, not that if you miss it you won't enjoy the film because there is so much going on.

The party sequences were nothing short of amazing and nothing short of what one would come to expect from Baz Luhrmann.

Gatsby Mansion
Gatsby Mansion

In conclusion, if you like Baz Luhrmann you will thoroughly enjoy this film,and if you liked the book you will also enjoy this film. Even those who have never heard of the book should go along for the stunning visual masterpiece that will unfold before your eyes, not to mention the superb acting by Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, and Joel Edgerton. You will also be treated to some fine Australian talent such as Vince Colosimo, Steve Bisley, Adelaide Clemens, Jason Clarke, and of course Barry Otto.

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