While many may criticize Baz Luhrmann for his rapid fire and somewhat gonzo directorial style, his sense of glitz and glamour works wonders for the tale of the rich and wealthy, and the one man who had it all, but could never quite grab a hold of what he really wanted. Luhrmann’s film is gorgeous and often times dazzling to behold, and it suits the aesthetic of the story of a young country boy named Nick seeking to strike it rich through business who is wooed and romanced by the rich and ridiculously well off. At first what seems like a fun bit of escapism, soon becomes the realization that the characters Nick surrounds himself with do nothing but escape from life.
Wealth is really all they have, and at the end of the day, they’re nothing but violent, amoral, and hollow individuals who define themselves by their material possessions. Much of the story is depicted through Luhrmann’s own incredible filming techniques that allow us to glance at the world Nick is viewing through rose colored glasses. The world of the Buchanans s one filled with decadence and distraction, and Nick is a man who begins to absorb it all, and try to make sense of why. The sad fact becomes apparent that the why is one that can not be grasped or rationalized. Luhrmann accompanies Nick’s first outing with the Buchanans with a distracting almost dizzying array of quick cuts and fast edits, signifying how utterly chaotic the world of the rich individual can be. He then paints much of the sexuality with various colors, highlighting the women’s dresses, and subtly hinting at a sense of misery that the Buchanans choose to ignore.
Nick’s first experience with a flapper prostitute shows his naivete in this world, in spite of the fact she appears with smeared mascara all over her face. The unveiling of Gatsby is also one of sheer significance, as Luhrmann shows a world where the rich do nothing but drink, party, and indulge in sex and ignorance, all the while Gatsby himself is a man seeking fulfillment and garners a darker side behind closed doors he shields with pleasantries and flashy possessions he throws at people to distract them. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a marvelous performance as Gatsby, the young wunderkind who stumbled in to a wealth so immense, it’s only hinted at. But Gatsby finds himself at a crossroads, loathing the world he embraced at first, and struggles throughout the narrative to keep it, since he can’t imagine anything else in his life.
Carey Mulligan is also fantastic and beautiful as Daisy Buchanan, Gatbsy’s unrequited long lost lover, while Joel Edgerton is often a scene stealer as the despicable Tom Buchanan, a womanizing yuppy who does whatever he can to avoid facing actual consequences in his life, and eases his pain with random sex and booze. The world Luhrmann paints for the audience is at first very alluring and amazing, but as the layers peel off, the veneer reveals a rotten core, one filled with a society that seals any and all wounds and misery with disgusting wealth that temporarily eases the pain. The deterioration of Nick from wide eyed city boy to cynical misanthrope is remarkable, and Tobey Maguire really embodies this character’s gradual change of heart. Many audiences will write “The Great Gatsby” off as style over substance, but I think Luhrmann supplies style along with great substance.
Featured on the Blu-Ray/DVD Combo, there’s the nine minute “The Greatness of Gatsby” about how Luhrmann and his all star cast put F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel to film. “Within and Without” is a nine minute look at the filming of the movie through star Tobey Maguire’s eyes as he takes us through the filming process thanks to a series of videos he shot. “The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby” is a fine twelve minute look at the fantastic soundtrack from folks like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Ferguie, and Lana Del Rey.
“Gatsby Revealed” is a thirty minute look at the five key moments in the narrative that mean the most to the overall story including “Gatbsy’s Party,” and “Daisy and the Gatsby Meet.” “The Jazz Age” is a sixteen minute look at the Jazz age that meshed with the wealth and booze of the 20’s. “Razzle Dazzle” is a sixteen minute glimpse in to the elaborate costume designs of the film, “Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry” is a seven minute translation of Fitzgerald to the screen in 3D. There’s a fourteen minute Deleted Scenes reel that includes an alternate ending. Finally, there’s a vintage 1926 silent trailer for “The Great Gatsby.”
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