The Great Gatsby Review: An Orgy of the Senses

You either hate Baz Luhrmann and his films, or you love them…that is if you love something insanely over-the-top, saturated beyond belief with colors, sound, glittering costumes, roaring and/or sweeping music, jarring and quick shots, and women who look like angels or devils. That being said, I love Luhrmann, and  his latest film The Great Gatsby (much like his previous films Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and the much beloved Moulin Rouge!) is just that. The Great Gatsby is above all, an Orgy of the Senses.

Based off of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, Luhrmann’s Gatsby is above all an extremely faithful adaptation of the seminal high school required reading. However, Baz works his magic just right, so that Literature nerds and haters of their junior year English class alike enjoy a scintillating and explosive experience. Based in the heat of the roaring ‘20s, Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway (a perpetually wide-eyed Tobey Maguire), a midwestern outsider who, upon moving to New York, becomes embroiled in the “Old Money” world of his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), and Carraway’s mysterious and filthily rich neighbor, the titular Jay Gatsby – a figure from Daisy’s past – played to perfection by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The plot of Fitzgerald’s novel is rather simple – at its heart it is a romance and critique of the American upper classes, as well as the seminal search for the Self. It is this simplicity that made  Fitzgerald’s novel genius, but with Luhrmann’s exaggerated filmmaking, he walks on precarious ground. More than once when watching the movie, I rolled my eyes as Nick, the narrator, explained obvious symbolism and meanings. Perhaps I have a higher opinion of a movie-going audience, but I feel that with film, symbolism is filtered through images – images, which unlike words, do not necessarily need an explanation.

Yet overall, I must commend Luhrmann’s Gatsby. Perhaps the greatest aspect of the film is the way in which through costuming, and especially music, Luhrmann accentuates to a modern audience just how wild and crazy the 1920s were (Gatsby’s infamous parties are likened to a never ending rave.) But the music of Gatsby also strengthens and illuminates the emotional ties and tension between characters, really piercing you through the heart in some gut-wrenching scenes.

Last, but not least, Gatsby’s heart lies within the acting. DiCaprio is Gatsby – rendering a vulnerability and hopefulness all while remaining mysterious and debonaire. The chemistry between Carey Mulligan and DiCaprio is unique and palpable, and as for the rest of the characters – it was as if they were lifted straight from the novel. Go see The Great Gatsby  you’ll have one heck of a time.

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