I've got a confession to make: I've never read "The Great Gatsby." I know, I know. I can practically hear the cries of "How can you call yourself an English major?" Well, I never read it as part of a school setting and throughout the years when I've tried to read it on my own, I've never gotten more than a few pages in, despite the novel's short length. If it's any consolation, I've been meaning to read it and after seeing Baz Luhrmann's version of the classic story, I'm more encouraged than ever.
But this is a review of the movie, not the book, so in that regard, I'm glad I've never read it and could go into this movie blind and not be constantly going back and forth between the movie and the book. So let's get started.
Gatsby, Gatsby, Gatsby. The man is all anyone can talk about it and rumors swirl around who he is - is he a murderer? A bootlegger? Did he fight in the war? No one knows for sure. The only thing that's certain about Gatsby is that he throws lavish parties and seems to have an unending supply of alcohol, despite prohibition - the period of time where people drank regardless of whether or not they wanted to, as the saying goes. But when writer/stock broker Nick Carraway moves next door to Gatsby, the truth surrounding his life slowly begins to reveal itself.
This is a Luhrmann film through and through. He is one of the few directors whose visual style is immediately identifiable and throughout the film, the viewer will undoubtedly get a feeling that "The Great Gatsby" is but a companion piece to his earlier film, "Moulin Rouge." The two are very similar in style, especially during the party scenes. They're frenetic, wild and encapsulates everything I've come to imagine about the roaring 20s. The camera is constantly moving, which gives the 20s their life and vivaciousness, plus it's just another bit of Luhrmann's style. I can see how it would be off-putting for some, but I really enjoyed it.
For being almost two-and-a-half hours long, "Gatsby" doesn't drag along. The film moves at a brisk pace as we get deeper and deeper into Gatsby's life and the woman he loves.
If you're a fan of the book, well, I just don't know what to tell you, but I imagine they're two very different things, but I feel Luhrmann was able to incorporate the novel (and the writing of it) into the film in a unique way, but that again also has the feeling of "Moulin Rouge." Despite how you feel about the source material, the movie is engaging with great performances and visuals that pop. It definitely deserves at least one viewing.