Gatsby not so Great

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan star

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan star

 

The bottom line:  Gail says it’s hard to follow Robert Redford.

We saw the movie in 3D, which may have been a mistake.  This movie features too many scenes just to show off the 3D effects.  Visual pyrotechnics don’t substitute for character development.

My very own, personal, 3D glasses.  I think they clean them before they re-package them.

My very own, personal, 3D glasses. I think they clean them before they re-package them.

 

Being a director is a huge power trip, spending many millions of dollars, marshaling the efforts of hundreds or thousands of talented people in search of your own, specific, particular vision.  The great directors, like Hitchcock or John Ford,  leave an indelible stamp on a movie but let the story shine through. In the old days, there were studio executives watching over them to keep the production in line. These days, though, sometimes the director gets so enamored of his vision that he lets it overpower the story and the acting and there is nobody to rein him in.  I think that’s what happened here.

Baz Luhrmann has directed 5 feature films, and they have gotten progressively more overblown and visually overpowering.  I loved Strictly Ballroom, a small Australian film from 1992.  Moulin Rouge was a tremendous spectacle, and cemented his reputation.  Australia was a dud, as was his version of Romeo and Juliet.  This garish, flashy, overdone testament to cinematic wizardry may end his career.

Gatsby has been eagerly awaited by the Luhrmann faithful for some time, yet only managed a 50% on the tomatometer.  Given one of the great books of American literature, Luhrmann has chosen technical wizardry over solid storytelling everytime.  It looks great, it just isn’t great.

DiCaprio does a decent job as Jay Gatsby, the lovesick bootlegger.  Carey Mulligan plays Daisy in such a fashion that I never felt I had any idea what she was thinking, she just drifted through her complicated romantic situation.  Tobey Maguire plays Nick Carraway as much more Peter Parker than Spiderman, which is probably apt but not very riveting.

Gail expected from the tattered reviews that she would like the cars and the clothes more than the movie itself, and she was right.  The costuming and the sets are excellent, the cars are just delicious.  Again, a case of the director putting more emphasis on the look of the film that the story.  Will Hollywood never learn that characters drive box office?

The new Star Trek movie opens Friday.  Now there are characters I can root for.

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