After all the complaining about the excessively flamboyant tone and cotton-candy gloss of Baz Luhrman‘s The Great Gatsby, I was surprised to discover that it’s not that that crazy. I suppose I’d been so well prepped that it didn’t bother me like I thought it might. Near-psychedelic fizz-pop is the style in which Luhrman dreams and composes. Faulting it for being excessive in this regard is like faulting Vincent Van Gogh for painting too fast. You can say “I prefer films that are more naturalistic and moderate in their manner” and that’s fine, but the fact that this movie delivers in a swirling, non-naturalistic form doesn’t constitute a “problem” in and of itself.
Yes, it’s over-canked and over-amplified in ways that become strained and tiresome, but it’s a work of legitimate interpretive auteurism — it’s a Luhrman thing through and through — and at least it’s a more or less faithful rendering of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel (except for the Nick Carraway-in-a-sanitarium framing device). And while there’s no disputing that while Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Jay Gatsby is, like the film as a whole, over-emphasized and overly explicit, Leo is a genuinely sad and touching figure. He’s fiercely clueless and fixated on a goal that can’t possibly work out for him, poor man. And Luhrman’s film is certainly a more stirring version than the 1974 Jack Clayton version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
And I loved Simon Duggan‘s 3D cinematography and particularly the candy-coated renderings of 1920s Manhattan. I can’t say I adored Luhrman’s film, but I respect it as far as it goes…and I was moved, to repeat, by DiCaprio’s performance. And I don’t usually respond to acting that baldly telegraphs in a generally too-explicit way every emotional twitch that a character is experiencing. But it worked this time.
I could bitch and moan about several aspects and details that don’t work or which simply bothered me, but I need to get a salad or something before the 7:30 screening of Amat Escalante‘s Heli. Bottom line: Gatsby is what it is, and some of it really works.