Unbox Rating: 4/5
When we first heard that Visionary Director-Writer Baz Luhrmann was going to remake F. Scott Fitzgerald’s opus, the Great Gatsby, we here at Unbox met it with both excitement and a bit of skepticism. The reason for such are two-fold: one, his last work, Australia, was a great departure from the visual style that we grew to love in Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge and, two, the attempt to bring to film the iconic American novel has been done quite a number of times with some not as successful as others. In fact, it’s hard to compete with the 1974 classic (and probably its most popular iteration) with Robert Redford as Gatsby and penned by the Francis Ford Coppola.
However, when we saw the first trailer of Luhrmann’s take, we were riveted with excitement! The visual flair is back and it is meaner than ever along with an eclectically unique soundtrack. This jazzed-up, highly sensual retelling of the beloved classic is one for the books. Gatsby has never looked sexier.
“The Great Gatsby” follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan(Joel Edgerton). It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.
Luhrmann’s vision of Gatsby is simply exhilarating. The sets and hyper-stylistic approach greatly echoes the era when the story was set. It’s not just the visual style that captures you but the absolutely thrilling performances of each character grips you. Leonardo Di Caprio is Gatsby. There’s really no two-ways about it. It takes a prolific actor to be able to convey Gatsby’s emptiness as well as draw the audience in whenever he’s on screen. Truth be told, every time I heard him say “Old Sport” I cringed. I was checking his performance against Robert Redford’s and when Redford says “Old Sport” it sounded right like it’s part of his speech pattern. However, Leo’s was different. It sounded fake—which it should have been. It’s brilliant because DiCaprio consciously gives you the uneasiness of the phrase that when the reveal of his character’s story is given it all makes perfect sense. It takes an inspired actor to be able to add that layer to give the reveal a fuller, richer experience.
Tobey Maguire is the audience in this journey. He is the silent observer that can’t really change the course of the story even if he wanted it to. He knows what’s going to happen, but he does nothing. His is the social commentary voice, the one where we all take part of when viewing a tragedy from a distant.
Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgeton, Elizabeth Debicki and Isla Fisher all gave equally screen-grabbing performances. However, while all of these are happening, we’re treated to some amazing visuals and equally mesmerizing music. Executive producer Jay-Z (yes, you read that right) brings with him his music producing chops in creating an unseen character all throughout Gatsby: the music.
Mixing era-Jazz with modern beats, Jay- Z helped solidify Luhrmann’s vision fully. Luhrmann himself isn’t new to mixing the old and the new. He’s always been unconventional ever since his Romeo & Juliet days and with the broader collaboration with Jay-Z they were able to produce one of the most fun musical soundtracks ever heard in a movie. Listen to some of these mad sick beats.
All in all, Gatsby is a welcome return for the visionary director. If Moulin Rouge closed the curtains of his loose Red-Curtain trilogy (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge) then could Gatsby be the start of another loose trilogy arc? I sure hope so!
P.S. We found this rather cool (always so cool) trailer over the internet where the guy used clips from 1974 to re-create the Gatsby trailer above. The result is marvelous! Check it out!
The Great Gatsby stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgeton, Elizabeth Dibicki and Isla Fisher and is directed by Baz Luhrmann.