In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since - "Whenever you feel like criticising any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
...I pretty sure Australian Director, Baz Luhrmann has had more advantages than I, but still it's worth remembering when considering the his new version of The Great Gatsby itself. I've enjoyed Baz's "Romeo+Juliet" (also featuring Leonardo DiCaprio) and Moulin Rouge was a cacophony of interesting tones and tunes - who can ever forget Ewan McGregor singing "Your Song" - but I digress...
Gatsby is beautiful to look at. Very "full" sets leaving you wondering where to look next and plenty of sweeping shots and pastiche views to convey the moment, that if you've seen Moulin Rouge, you'll be familiar with. 1920's New York is almost a character of its own, and it has a bright and hopeful feel to it, that matches what - in places - you get from the novel. That's not to say its a constant barrage of such devices.
In fact, it feels like he's calmed down somewhat. He's been mostly faithful to the original text - and if you haven't read it, you really should. The Great American Novel, is an evocative read and has helped me to understand New York, the East Coast, The New Money vs The Old Money, Long Island and just how "rip-roaring" the 1920's must have been. It's around if you look, Google is your friend, and publicbookshelf or gutenberg.net.au might know something....
My only criticism - and in all fairness it's a small one - is the music. This is where he's linked the story back to the present day, and I couldn't help but feel like it may be an anachronism too far. Music from the Likes of Jay-Z (who incidentally is exec producer on the film) and Florence and the Machine, The XX, Beyonce and many others mostly fits, but there are a couple of occasions when I just wanted something less Hippity-Hop. It's far from bad choices - and in some cases it is inspired - I particularly enjoyed the "Back to Black" rendition and I suspect I will need to go round it again to fully appreciate what's good and what's bad in there. There's a lot less bad than there is good.
Mrs G felt it was "over long" though I hardly noticed, and I wonder if this is because I was already familiar with the plot. The 3D is well done, and barely distracting at all, which ultimately makes it - as usual - unnecessary.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'd recommend it, particularly if you have even a passing interest in the book. It's also made me want to hunt down the 1974 Robert Redford portrayal of J.G. just for a comparison of treatment of the storyline and its also what many consider to be THE cinematic version. 8/10
I'll leave you with my favourite quote from the Novel (which I didn't hear in the film - although I just may have missed it with so much going on)...
Nick Carraway: "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925
Edit: This explanation of the music means I really need to watch it again.... Maybe I just didn't get it first time: