I know what you’re thinking, The Great Gatsby isn’t really the kind of movie we usually review here at The Nerd Signal. But don’t be so sure. It’s a big-budget 3-D adaptation of a novel we all read in high school featuring a cast made up primarily of actors with a history of genre work. If that doesn’t scream nerd-bait, I don’t know what does.
We all know the story (or at least those of us who actually did our homework do). Nick (Tobey Maguire of Spider-Man), the narrator, has just moved to Long Island to start his career as stock broker in New York. His cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan of Doctor Who a ton of award nominations ago) and her philandering husband Tom (Joel Edgerton of the Star Wars prequels) live across the bay. Nick’s enigmatic neighbor Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio of Inception) throws huge parties seemingly attended by the entirety of the city, but he prefers to spend his time staring at the green light that shines from Daisy’s house.
More than a few people have questioned director Baz Luhrmann’s decision to film The Great Gatsby in 3-D, some even saying Luhrmann’s overly stylized… style (?) is inappropriate for the material. Stephen Colbert might have joked “it feels like the themes of longing and alienation are in your face” but the thing is, the tool Michael Bay uses to sloppily throw robot parts at the audience works amazingly well here. As he’s done so many times before, Baz Luhrmann creates a gorgeous, decadent world that the viewer can’t help but want to escape to before revealing that it’s merely a gilded facade. Here the 3-D serves two purposes. Early in the film it helps to show just how amazing and lavish Jay Gatsby’s parties are, how full of hope and promise and wonder New York in the 1920s could be. Later in the film, by placing the characters on separate planes, it precisely does make the longing and obsession and isolation they’re are feeling into something visual, almost physical.
Tobey Maguire does the best he can with what was always going to be a bland role, even in this version of the story. Nick really just stands around and watches while everyone’s lives fall apart around him, but as a narrator Maguire is just fine. And the few moments he gets to actually be an active participant in the events, he’s quite good.
Carey Mulligan’s Daisy is a bundle of nerves and indecision. She’s clearly unhappy with her life, but she’s too afraid to do anything about it. And until things really blow up this is shown and not told, via small glances and body language that Mulligan pulls off effortlessly.
But the real star here, obviously, is Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. DiCaprio is far more sympathetic, no make that pathetic, in the role than Redford was in the dismally dry adaptation our teachers showed us after we finished reading the book in high school. There’s a sadness behind DiCaprio’s bravado. He knows he’s a fraud, but more importantly, he knows if he’s found out he’ll lose his chance at Daisy. And this is written over every inch of his face.
The Great Gatsby is, simply put, one of the most gorgeous films I have ever seen. Every actor in it has brought their A-game and Baz Luhrmann (a director I’m quite fond of) is in top form. I kind of wish his other films had been in 3-D, hell I’d almost be willing to accept a post-conversion of Moulin Rouge if it looked half as good as this. Go see this movie, and for the love of zombies, see it in 3-D.
I give it 9 GREEN LIGHTS out of 10.
Some Quick Side Notes
- I think the internet has broken me, as there was a moment during a the big confrontation between Tom and Gatsby where I kept thinking “Kiss! Kiss!” Thanks a lot, Tumblr.
- I wouldn’t be at all surprised if teachers started replacing the older film version with this one in classrooms, though I wouldn’t suggest kids watch this instead of reading the book. While it’s generally faithful, there are enough subtle changes that you’ll be easily busted.
- That being said, this review really felt like writing a book report.
- Joel Edgerton might be a time traveler. Everyone else looks like people from now pretending to from the 20s, but Edgerton looks like he’s actually from the 20s.