Reviews – Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013)

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is as over-the-top and musically-driven as any of his past films.

Since his directorial debut in 1992 with Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann’s films have progressed to be more extravagant and visually stunning than the last; 1996’s modern-style Romeo + Juliet was filled with guns and violence, 2001’s Moulin Rouge!‘s portrayal of Paris’ famous cabaret district with it’s dramatically-driven protagonist and 2008’s Australia with it’s never-ending story lines.

And now The Great Gatsby’s turn; filled with over-the-top parties and costuming, music and murder.

The Great Gatsby is set in 1920s New York (but filmed in Sydney) and is told from the perspective of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), neighbour to the mysterious Jay ‘Gatsby’ (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Gatsby throws lavish parties at his house in the West Egg, and Carraway, curious as to whom the man is, attends one of these parties (one of the very few invited guests) in search of the man who many know just as a myth. Very few have laid eyes on him. Carraway stumbles upon the man and they become the best of friends.

Carraway’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) live across the bay and much to Tom’s dismay a rekindled love between Daisy and Gatsby ensues.

The soundtrack, curated by Jay-Z, is a mix of 1920’s jazz infused with modern day artists, including Beyonce, Will.I.Am, Lana Del Rey, Sia and Florence and The Machine. Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful becomes the thematic anthem for the film as it evokes sadness in the viewer as it’s interjected into pivotal moments.

Having read the book in anticipation for the film, I walked out of the theatre happy that Luhrmann had kept the film so close to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s eighty-eight year old book, albeit a few additions. The main one being the inclusion of a doctor who Carraway narrates the plot line of the film to as he recalls pivotal moments of his life as an acquaintance to Gatsby.

A large number of the reviews I read before seeing the film spoke negatively of the release but this did not deter me from flocking to the cinema. The film was referred to as shallow, over-the-top, fake, superficial and the list goes on. Yet, if this was a Hollywood production, which, at times, can be all of the aforementioned, then I feel like the attitude towards the film would’ve been a very different story.

Anyone who’s seen any of Luhrmann’s previous films should come to expect extravagant costumes, a thriving soundtrack and colourful, lively visuals.

Despite featuring Hollywood actors, The Great Gatsby is an Australian production featuring an extensive list of Australian cast including a cameo by Luhrmann, so shouldn’t we be supporting our tiny film industry for trying rather than knocking it down?

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