WARNING: NOT SPOILER FREE. HUGE MOVIE SPECIFIC SPOILERS INSIDE.
Historical inaccuracies (and there were a LOT of them) aside, I didn`t think much of this movie. It was entertaining, sure. It had a lot of good things, but a lot of bad things, too.
Let`s start with the points I didn`t like.
For starters, I didn`t like the way Nick (played by Toby Macguire) narrated the movie. While I`m usually okay with narration, I guess I just don`t like the slow way he did it. It ticked me off, in a way that made me cringe and hope the story would just continue the regular way ASAP.
What also ticked me off was the attempt at…I`m not sure what, actually. Adding something poetic? I`m talking about the words in the screen, the words appearing as Nick typed them. In my opinion, those added absolutely nothing to the movie and in all honesty looked a bit cheap.
What also didn`t add anything to the movie, was the 3D. Why was it even in 3D? It added nothing whatsoever to the movie, except for making me nauseous.
Although I do see some good points in the mix of modern music and old music, I personally didn`t like it. It`s such a strange sight, seeing a 1920`s jazz party with hip hop. But more on that later.
The last bad point now though: what on earth happened to Jordan Baker? She went from an interesting (and really rather important) character in the book to someone who was just kind of there for no apparent reason in the movie. I would have liked to see more of her and the relationship she`s supposed to have with Nick. I`d have liked to see more of Myrtle, too. I`d have liked more explanation of the relation between Myrtle and Tom Buchanan. Instead, we get an almost awkwardly long scene of Nick getting drunk.
Still, I do have to admit some good things about this movie.
What this movie has done very well, annoyances and discrepancies written above put aside, is bringing forth the points of the novel in a very clear, almost simple way. The illusions of grandeur, the chasing after images of perfection, of dreams and of the past, instead of realism. The failure of the American dream, even. The movie portrayed these themes in a clear way without being obnoxious or belittling about it.
It`s also visually very pleasing (3D aside). The sights are beautiful, the parties are breathtaking. There was some amazing cinematography in there. Take for example the scene near the end of the film, of Nick in the rain at Gatsby`s pier. It was a very simple shot, that still portrayed the era perfectly. It was a very strong shot, complex despite its simplicity. It showed Nick himself, instead of Nick`s view. It showed rain, darkness, clarity, a perfect capture of the era, while the shots at the same place used to show Gatsby literally reaching out to his dream hidden in the fog. The difference could hardly have been more striking.
I also liked the use of colours. I liked how Gatsby`s car was such a splash of colour, a splash of hope and grandeur, in an often dreary environment. I liked how they all live in a place of (artificial) brightness, filled with colour, but to get to the city they have to pass through an area of dread, hopelessness and darkness, bringing tiny bits of colour with them as they go. This use of colours doesn`t just make the film more aesthetically pleasing, it also references straight back to the book, in which colour descriptions play a very large role.
Overall, this movie is a good way of getting to know the story. It might just pave a way for a whole new generation to discover the book and connect to it. It might also not do that, but it`s still a good way of telling a classic (yet timeless) story to a new generation. The mixture with modern music helps with this. The use of artists like Beyonce, Jack White, Gotye and Lana del Rey, mixed in with the jazz from the era, might also help open the movie up to the modern audience. It also forces you to look at the movie in a modern way, and think about how much of this story is still relevant to us today in a way the book can`t.
Also, on a more superficial level: Leonardo Dicaprio makes for a Gatsby almost exactly like how I imagined him to be. Almost. Still a very good choice, and a job well done.
Still, I`m not likely to watch this movie again. There were just too many things that annoyed me. It was a nice attempt, I can see why many people like it, but for me personally it could have been much better.
If you haven`t read the book yet, I`d recommend seeing the film first and reading the book after. I suspect the film might just provide you with some good insights and preparations for the book, while the other way around will just cause you to be annoyed.
So have any of you seen the film? What did you think?
(P.S.: read my book review of The Great Gatsby here. )