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The Great Gatsby in 3D - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Great Gatsby in 3D
Directing: C+
Acting: B+
Writing: C+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B-
Special Effects: C-

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby is an overall disappointment with some great moments. Chief among them is the introduction of Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character, a fair amount of time into the film. DiCaprio's face, surrounded by the excitement and even fireworks of Gatsby's typically lavish party, is thrilling enough at its moment of reveal that the theatre I was in literally burst into applause. This is not the kind of thing that happens often.

Such moments are rare, however, and by all accounts, this is a Baz Luhrmann movie much more than it is an adaptation of great literature. Not that that point has much effect on me: perhaps this makes me what's wrong with America, but I have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. At least, I have no recollection of having done so. Thus, I have no sense of this movie "ruining" a classic novel. I can only judge the film on its own merits, which is what any film deserves from its audience anyway. And yet, even having not read the book, this movie feels a tad like Luhrmann took great literature and tried to Moulin Rouge!-ify it. And that part doesn't work so much.

Luhrmann has fun with the anacrhonisms. The soundtrack to all of Gatsby's many wild parties consists entirely of new, very modern pop and hip-hop music. I rather enjoyed it, actually, and may very well get myself the soundtrack. Honestly the soundtrack is probably better than the movie.

The story isn't terrible, but it is kind of blah, at least as translated to the big screen. The themes of love and obsession in the context of the Roaring Twenties probably do work better on the pages of classic literature than on film. Luhrmann juxtaposes old and new in this film in ways that are sometimes fun but often a little discombobulating; he did a far better job of that over a decade ago in Moulin Rouge!. The key difference between that film and this one is the music: the other one was literally a musical. This one attempts to stay true to the "spirit" of the source material but with modern music, which I suspect strips it of its original spirit.

Tobey Maguire is Nick Carraway, the neighbor/friend of Jay Gatsby who narrates the film -- apparently in the process of writing the story at the suggestion of a psychiatrist. Why he needs any kind of mental or emotional help is never explained, except with the subtle suggestion that it's due to everyone but Gatsby himself being shallow and greedy. He idealizes Gatsby, in spite of him here being portrated more as a borderine dangerous obsessive than a genuinely great man.

It's all about Gatsby's love for Daisy (Carey Mulligan), from whom he parted five years earlier for somewhat convoluted reasons relating to both having to go to war and being ashamed of his dirt-poor upbringing. Daisy, as it happens, is married now, to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a philanderer who nevertheless is consumed by jealousy when Gatsby attempts to get Daisy back. I suppose it's a little refreshing that when things come to blows between these two men, it's with words rather than fists -- although it comes very close to the latter. Still, the scene feels like it's intended to be climactic but ends feeling like a missed opportunity for catharsis.

Gatsby is filthy rich now, and has bought a house directly across the bay from Daisy and Tom's. This is where the incessant parties come in: he throws them in the hopes that Daisy will one day come over. Why doesn't he just go over there and knock on the door? This sure seems like a lot of effort for something that could be done far more simply. It does give us an opportunity to see glimpses of Gatsby's many dubious political connections -- hints as to where he got his fortunes -- including one by Amitabh Bachchan, arguably the most famous Bollywood actor of all time. He plays American-gangster here, though (fairly convincingly), and most viewers will be lost on the odd casting.

Honestly, the story drags a bit. I won't say I got bored, but I got close. This movie didn't need to be 143 minutes long.

More than anything, I was frustrated -- by the effects. I only go out of my way to see 3D movies if I feel the director is likely to do something great with it -- I trusted Ang Lee would with Life of Pi, and I was right. I assumed the same of Baz Luhrmann, and I was wrong. Having seen the film, I can't see what necessity there was for it.

Mind you, The Great Gatsby, like all Baz Luhrmann films, is stunningly beautiful to look at. The cinematography alone is its greatest quality. But I feel like I might appreciate it better if I see it a second time, in 2-D. I can't quite decipher if this is Luhrmann's fault or that of the theatre in which I saw the film. Perhaps a little of both. Looking online, I find mixed responses to the 3D in this film. Forbes</i> says it has "some of the best 3D ever put to screen." I just can't subscribe to that: far too often, the camera forcuses on admittedly bright and crisp faces in the foreground, but that leaves the background literally blurry -- and making that 3D is a little headache-inducing. You should have either depth perception or depth of focus on film, not both. If you don't have the option of focusing on the background, what the hell point is there of 3D?

In a few shots, the 3D had an almost dizzyingly effect, making the respective depths appear backward. If the camera focuses on a window beyond some bushes, making the bushes in the foreground blurry, it makes it appear as though the window is actually in the foreground. This is the kind of thing that makes it impossible to stay lost in the story of the movie. All I can think about is the bushes.

I kept wondering if it was the 3D glasses this theatre was using, or the fact that my seat was slightly to the side of the theatre, or if every print of the film was like this, or what. Mind you, I did see plenty of trailers to this film in 3D in which this effect did not occur. If nothing else maybe you should just take care not to see this movie at Pacific Theatres at The Grove in Los Angeles. But you probably really don't need to see it in 3D anywhere.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton make pop superficiality of THE GREAT GATSBY.

Overall: B-
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