Frannie and I booked our tickets to a special Gold Class preview screening of The Great Gatsby weeks ago, so it was pretty exciting when the day finally arrived. You could say we’ve been counting down since the Baz Luhrmann remake was first announced about two years ago, so we had to make it something special. With some careful orchestrating, we were both able to leave work at 5pm on the dot and made it to the cinema in time for a glass of champagne and some festivities before the show started.The Gold Class screening we attended was part of Event Cinemas Chicks at the Flicks evenings. It’s a fantastic girls night out for movie lovers and really makes an occasion of heading to the cinemas. Especially for a movie you’ve been anticipating so excitedly – it fit perfectly with our plans. We’re not really organised activity enthusiasts, but it was great to see people dressed in 20s inspired clothes and for local businesses to promote themselves. They set up stalls and had samplers in the gift bags that were left on our seats. There was a photobooth, manicure stand and even a place to get your hair done and each different event is tailored to suit the genre/theme of the movie being screened.
But more importantly, the film.
Gatsby was by no means perfect, but I’m a little frustrated with some of the first reviews so this is my rebuttal. The classic American novel on which the film is based revels in its subtlety and imagery, and subtle is the last word you would use to describe Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation. But the story has been adapted a number of times before, so this film had to offer something different. I thought it achieved, and even excelled at that.
The modern, urban soundtrack was genius – it provided juxtaposition so sharp that the tracks by Florence + the Machine, Jay Z and Lana Del Ray actually seemed perfectly placed. The whole film was a visual spectacle so beautiful it really deserves to be seen on a big screen. Prada costumes, Tiffany’s jewellery, New York City – what is not to love? The party scenes were mesmerizing and I thought they perfectly captured the opulence and frivolity of the time. Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki was incredible as Jordan Baker and got comparatively more screen time than I thought the character was given in the novel.
But as I said, the film was not perfect, and some of the things that annoyed me at the start grew quite grating after more than two hours. Firstly, subtlety may have gone out the window, but the overuse of integral motifs such as the green light and Dr TJ Eckleburg’s watching eyes were shoved so far down our throats it became almost unbearable. One of the things I hate most about cinema-going is when the director thinks the audience is not smart enough to figure something out themselves, so they repeatedly allude to it, to the point of exhaustion. Oh and if Leo said ”old sport” one more time I might have thrown something at the screen.
I was also suspicious of what actually happened to Isla Fisher. Was she terrible in the role of Myrtle? Because her part was cut down to about two minutes screen time and it was such a waste. I love the character in the book – she is this tragic, desperate, lonely, selfish soul and her death is a pivotal plot point. In the film, I didn’t even care. We needed to connect to her before we could care about losing her.
Overall it was a fabulous spectacle and Luhrmann really gave it everything he had. Who are we to expect any more than that?
Thoughts from Frannie.
When Daisy tells Gatsby his lifestyle was dreamed to existence from his “perfect, irresistible imagination”, my immediate thought was of Baz Luhrmann. What an enviable and vivid imagination that man has. While it has its critics, I believe that Luhrmann has created a film that both honors and reinvigorates the story of the classic novel on which it is based. Certain subtleties that lie behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original words may not have been presented in exactly the way that I interpreted them but that is always the danger in a remake or book to movie project and in my opinion is not a failing of this film.
Surrounded by a dream team of actors (Leonardo DiCaprio is perfection as Gatsby), Luhrmann has been able to bring to life the romance, colours and music of the surreal 1920s world of his mind’s eye. The costumes are incredible and the soundtrack of modern and sharp music is a triumph in its own right. Luhrmann often incorporates elements that contemporise his films adding relevance for younger audiences and in this case (also in Romeo + Juliet) sparking their interest in classic literature.
The story is a heartbreaking, hopeful yet hopeless one. The central characters are flawed, vulnerable, selfish and frustrating, hiding behind the airs and graces of social acceptance and demonstrating the struggle for balance between rich and poor, right and wrong. I don’t even particularly like Tobey Maguire as an actor but he did an incredible job as Nick Carraway, the narrator of this tragic tale of obsession. Luhrmann’s unmistakable style of direction is unapologetically bold and I guess you are either a fan or you aren’t. I’m a huge fan of his and now I’m a huge fan of this movie.