Designed to look like a kaleidoscopic collage, Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of The Great Gatsby creates a distorted sense of a time period not quite understood in the minds of its inhabitants. At first the whole film seems wild and jarring and off-key, throwing directorial ideas around carelessly. Its distinctive style becomes easier to understand as the film builds, amounting to a provocative and uniquely envisioned Gatsby.
The 3D is more inventive than most. Luhrmann’s emphasis on a vividly dreamlike style is clearly imagined with the 3D effect in mind, creating a stylistic immersion and a cerebral quality to the storyof 1920s decadence and the American experience. It’s hypnotically arranged which also prevents it from quite having the emotional, melancholic sucker punch from the novel.
It’s very much a ‘director’s film’ with performances from fine actors such as Di Caprio and Mulligan (less so the flat Tobey Maguire) feeling secondary to the unrestrained energy about each shot and creative decision. The music choices are maybe the most peculiar, blasting the likes of Beyonce and Will.i.am which initially just feels indecent for the 1920s time period but Luhrmann actually does something really interesting by creating a tone for his movie which reflects the mood of a story about people being sucked up in a world they don’t really understand. It isn’t the novel, it never could be. Such magnificent prose could never really be done justice, but Luhrmann provides his own life and vigour to the classic American narrative of what it means to be living and not thinking, moving through modernity.
Review by David Rank
The Great Gatsby is out now in the UK and US. Running time 143 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).