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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby, based on the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a spectacular movie experience. Full of energy, color, and music, the film begins with the protagonist, Nick Carraway, narrating the events that led him to need professional help for alcoholism and depression. Much like the intro to Lurhmann’s award-winning Moulin Rouge, the despondent main character reflects back on how hopeful and full of wonder he was when he first arrived to an exciting new city to chase his dreams. And, like Christian in Moulin Rouge, Nick is quickly enchanted by the nightlife, glamorous parties, and beautiful people only to quickly find that the glitter is merely covering up a hidden darkness.

It’s the early 1920’s in New York City, and the only person Nick knows in the big city is his cousin Daisy. Her rich husband indulges in booze, cigars, and women while Daisy suffers with a sad smile and charming wit. Nick soon receives an invitation to a party at his new neighbor’s exquisite, castle-like mansion. Nick happens to live in the run down shack next to the mysterious J. Gatsby. The two quickly become friends, and Nick is allowed into Gatsby’s world. Gatsby confides in him and tells him the secrets of his past--secrets that involve Daisy.

While the film began with a roar, pacing became problematic towards the end. Scenes that should have the audience at the edge of their seats just dragged on. Perhaps it is the effect of such a flashy start, to be let down once things slow down. Perhaps that is just what Lurhmann wanted, so you could relate to Nick’s realization that this new magical world he discovered would ultimately lead to a disappointing and drab existence, where shallow people and loud parties were just distractions from the emptiness that this kind of lifestyle left behind.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. The 3D effect gave the movie a pop-up story book feel to it, which lent itself well to the narrative of a too-good-to-be-true vision that Gatsby fully believed would come to be. The costumes, settings, and cinematography were gorgeous and well-stylized. The music, which is an ever-present part of Lurhmann’s films, gave the film a special kind of energy that draws the audience in to feel like they are part of the festivities. While all of the performances were great, Carey Mulligan really shined as Daisy. While her character's personality was at times over the top, her heartbreak was subtle and honest.

The Great Gatsby opens May 10th.

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