Thursday, 30 May 2013
Should we be Grateful for Gatsby?
So the long awaited latest Luhrmann offering has finally hit our cinemas and the critics it seems are out for blood. I thought I’d have a go at reviewing the film without the inconvenience having read the book (thereby sidestepping those pesky preconceptions that come when one story is told in two medium).
So basically it’s about a young man Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who finds himself involved in a debaucherous lifestyle led by his new friend and neighbour, the Great Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DeCaprio). Gatsby just happens to be in love with Carraway’s cousin (Cary Mulligan) who is unfortunately married to, well her husband (some other dude). Gatsby sets about securing the object of his affections with all his wealth and intrigue which ends in a tragic twisted finale of love, death, big cars and mind-numbingly beautiful clothes.
Firstly I should say that if you’re not a fan of over-the-top crazy extravagance in your films you’re not likely to enjoy this (or any Baz Luhrmann) epic anyway. This is not a delicately told love story but one of crass extravagance and overtly paraded wealth of the 1920’s upper echelon.
It’s a spectacle for sure, invading your senses with colours, noises and actions. The party scenes in particular are a mesh of dances, drunken carryings on and well more drinking. There is something going on in every corner of this film, so much so that you could spend a great deal of time watching the extras and still enjoy it. Except you won’t cos Leo is quite enchanting. Really though, my issue is with the other characters not how they are portrayed.
It’s Daisy that needs a smack round the head with a wet fish (and is about as interesting as one, Lord only knows why Gatsby is so into her.) The pathetic creature actually says this of her child ‘I hope she’s a fool, a beautiful fool, that’s the best thing a woman can be in this world.’ Oh COME ON! Its 1922, Amelia Earhart is alive and well and soon to be heading off across the pacific and Pankhurst has just helped get you the power to vote, and the best you think a woman can be is a fool?!
Honestly all the women are weak or weird in this film and the men generally aren’t any better, with the exception of Gatsby that is. Luckily Leo’s honest portrayal of a man in love saves the film as he manages to break your heart, make you laugh and charm the pants off of you in each scene. His only faux pas being the amount of times he says ‘Old Sport’, it’s at least 5 times per scene sometimes twice in a sentence. After about an hour (and the films 2.2) I’d heard it so much I considered drowning myself in the leftover champagne being poured into a spittoon during one post-party scene.
A word has to be said about the soundtrack which is both genuinely exciting and self-praising craziness from Jay-Z and his clan. Kanye West and Beyoncé both contribute and I wouldn’t be surprised if trawling through the credits you found Kim Kardashian noted as a backing singer. His poorly timed diss of Taylor Swift in 100 $ bill (implying that she’s more famous because his fwiend jumped on stage and snatched her 2009 MTV award away) is a cheap shot and I’d expect better of him. That said the contributions from Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, The XX and Emile Sande pull the track listing into something more than the self-indulgent whining of two spoilt hip hop princes who don’t know quite how lucky they are.
So yes it’s too long, yes the people in the story are vile and yes the soundtrack is a little odd, but if you look at the real stars of the show (the costumes and set design) you’ll not be disappointed. Some of the items made by Catherine Martin (with a little help from Prada) were exquisite; I didn’t even mind Mulligan’s sappy face when she wore that lilac dress.
The problem I think is that it was so highly anticipated that expectations rose exponentially, it was then delayed which only added to the hype. Hoopla was whipped up so that when it actually came out, the only thing that would have truly sated the critics would have been if Gatsby himself literally jumped off the screen, spewing the answer to world peace whilst simultaneously handing out Louboutins to each and every member of the audience.
Which actually, come to think of it, maybe the answer to world peace, “free shoes people, anyone still interested in fighting? No? Good!
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