This latest film adaptation of the 1925 F Scott Fitzgerald novel is set to be one of the major players at this summer’s box office. Opening at Cannes Film festival this evening Baz Luhrmann’s next offering is big news. It boasts an A list cast, Leonardo DiCaprio takes the lead role as Jay Gatsby with rising star Carey Mulligan as the films love interest Daisy Buchanan. Now I will admit I haven’t read this book, I came into this screening knowing little more than that it’s a love story. When we were passed 3D glasses upon entering the theatre I was a little confused, how is this 1920’s period piece going to play out in such a modern format?
Luhrmann is known for his modernist style and has had huge success with previous films such as Strictly Ballroom, Romeo+Juliet and Australia. So far the film has received mixed reviews and is certainly a bold adaptation of the classic. It takes a while to get used to the 3D and the look of the film. At first you feel as though your almost watching an animation, you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re seeing real people rather than motion capture characters. Old photographs intertwine with fluid action shots that create montages, carefully narrated by Tobey Maguire’s character Nick Carraway. Maguire has been chosen carefully to be a rock amongst the fluidity of Luhrmann’s surreal vision, you feel safe with him as you journey into a dreamlike world. As the story picks up the effects don’t seem as intrusive, they complement the story being told rather than being there for the sake of modernity.
The well-known story oozes decadence, the costumes and mise-en-scene enchants you. Dancers jump off the screen, girls in flapper dresses bop to modern tunes offered up by Jay-Z. The first time you hear the contrasting music it’s a little confusing, almost as if Luhrmann is trying too hard. But once again I’m swayed by the charm of it; the contemporary sounds remind the audience that we are now also living in a time of indulgence. Even though financially we are in a recession, we seem to be exhausting celebrity culture and certainly in the media we are obsessed with the lifestyle that wealth can bring.
Amongst the visual spectacle and the glorification of wealth enters the love interest, Daisy. Mulligans portrayal is meek and wide eyed, at odds with the Gatsby we’d met until this point. Dicaprio flirts with comedy in his jaded courtship creating some funny moments alongside a nice touch of romance. It’s with this relationship playing out that I’m again wishing I wasn’t watching this in 3D, swaying back to my earlier reservations. Mulligans fragility has brought about some of her finest screen moments however amongst the bells and whistles of this film there are only hints of the brilliant actress that she is. That being said, within the context of the character this might be Luhrmann’s vision for Daisy, she is a representation of a fixation rather than a fully rounded personality. Gatsby is clinging onto an idea from the past within the dream like world that he has created for himself. This interpretation would suggest that Mulligans character is almost ghost like.
The latter half of the film is full of melancholia, after the excitement and colours of the first part we’re fast tracked into reality. Dicaprio casts an extremely fragile shadow, demonstrating the hollowness of material culture. I’m reminded of that feeling you get when you’ve stayed at a party too long. When all your friends have gone home and you realise you’ve been left at a stranger’s house full of dickheads. This story has a moral compass and although I don’t know if it’s for everyone, it certainly makes these seemingly old dilemmas relevant to modern society. It throws up some interesting questions and certainly leaves you thinking.