You can’t repeat the past
As The Great Gatsby has been out for a while (and this was supposed to go up weeks ago), I’ll make it short and (not?) sweet. There’s something just not quite right about this version of The Great Gatsby.
F Scott Fitzgerald’s book, anointed as one of the great, influential American novels, seems to defy adaptation, frustrating anyone who comes near it. Perhaps it’s the importance of the book itself that’s the problem, the responsibility of the text weighing down the adapter. Attempting to match what’s become an iconic piece of literature proves to be a difficult task.
Director Bazz Lurhman tries to incorporate Fitzgerald’s prose within his own style but the end result is an unwieldy one. It never congeals in the right way with Lurhman expending a lot of energy to lift the story off the page. It shows, with the film having the restless energy of someone who’s in a rush to say something but isn’t quite sure how.
After a manic opening ½ hour which does the film no favours, it slows down but only really comes into its own in the last ½ hour or so. Ironically, it’s when the characters are sitting in a room with nothing to distract them, no parties or dancers dangling from the ceilings, that the film is at its most interesting.
A simpler, tighter story; one without the constant visual inflections and (disappointingly) anaemic soundtrack might have made a better impact.
But it does get a few things right. DiCaprio is well suited to Gatsby and his introduction is one of the few knockout scenes in the film. While most of the actors struggle to make themselves seen and heard above Lurhman’s ADD style, Joel Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan makes an impression as a gruff, old-money patriarch.
With that last half-hour realising the book’s Shakespeare-like romance tragedy; about how we can all be blinded by our past, it makes this effort all the more frustrating. It sparkles in moments, but then all that glistens is not gold. Not bad then, just decent.