Gatsby: Good, I Guess, But Not Great (And is it Even Good?)

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The best part about finally seeing Baz Luhrmann’s 3D adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” was seeing my name on the big screen during the trailer for Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Okay, I don’t expect anyone else to feel that way, but it was pretty damn cool.

My feelings about the movie itself are almost as schizo as, well, the movie. Some thoughts:

  • The first hour is crushing — a tone-deaf, frantic assault on the senses that simply does not work. In fact, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that the least effective elements are the Luhrmann (TM) touches.
  • Indeed, the last hour is quite, quite good, because Baz hits the break (unlike Daisy) and allows the central characters to interact free of aesthetic insanity.
  • This is why I’m a bit torn: The elements I disliked, I REALLY disliked, but the elements I liked, I liked A LOT.
  • DiCaprio is fantastic, as always, making it hard to imagine another actor embodying Gatsby so precisely. It’s easy to miss among the craziness, but this is a note-perfect performance.
  • I can’t say the same for Carey Mulligan, although I’m not sure it’s her fault. She is, like Anna in Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina,” the least interesting character onscreen, and that’s a problem. She is wan, unmemorable, and just not electric enough. Yet she is a likable actress, always, and looks the part, for sure.
  • Tobey Maguire is meh.
  • The 3D was a COLOSSAL waste of time and money. It added nothing, and while not distracting, was utterly useless.
  • The “Love is Blindness” cover was a nice fit.
  • Joel Edgerton steals every scene as the boorish Tom Buchanan. “Gatsby” may finally make him a star.

The film had a massive opening weekend; considering that it is a 2 1/2 hour literary adaptation, and opened to more than $50 million, I’d call it a hit. And quite frankly, that’s good for movies. Luhrmann is nothing if not a unique talent. We WANT him making movies this way. Should “Gatsby” have been one of them? Hard to say. I would watch it again, and that means something, I’d say. I could see this one having some legs, maybe topping out around $110 million. Not quite Gatsby money, but not bad.

“Gatsby” opens this week’s Cannes Film Festival. I’ll share some thoughts on this year’s fest soon.

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

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