“Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody told you it was a happy little tale, if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied. But let me assure you, this, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl. That girl.” Daisy Buchanan. Sorry wrong Tobey Maguire intro, but that’s how the intro feels to me and it applies pretty well to “The Great Gatsby” as well as “Spider-Man”. Set in 1920’s New York, we see the glamour and splendour in the lifestyles of the rich and famous occasionally contrasted with the not so rich or famous in the “valley of ashes” that lies along the road between two idyllic communities of West Egg and East Egg where our main characters live.
The story is told from the perspective of Maguire’s character, Nick Carraway, a relative of Daisy who lives in a mansion in East Egg. Nick rents a small house next to Gatsby’s mansion in West Egg and can see Daisy’s home across the bay. Nick get’s swept up into the riotous living of his family and neighbour. He is an outsider and the story told through his eyes keeps us on the outside as well. I quite like this choice, but there is a significant amount of narration that sometimes breaks the flow of the story. I think they use the narration to condense the story into the limited time allowed by movies.
Ultimately the story of “The Great Gatsby” is a relationship drama told in an often stunning, beautiful, high contrast world backed by a bombastic soundtrack. The costumes, sets and cinematography are excellent with only a few moments where there is a strange separation between the foreground and background. The acting is superb throughout, but Leonardo Dicaprio was not nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Gatsby likely because he was nominated for his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” the same year. The structure of the storytelling is excellent with powerful use of imagery, colour, and foreshadowing. There are some subtle character building moments that connect and separate the various players beautifully.
Now for the smut. There is moderate course language, significant alcohol use, smoking, and the taking of unknown drugs. The party atmosphere of the movie often has scantily clad dancers and others, but it’s rarely the focus of any scene. There is a lot of implied sex including infidelity. There is not a lot of violence in the movie, but when it happens it is usually shocking and includes domestic violence. Explicit racism is used to character build and is always portrayed as negative.
“The Great Gatsby” is a bright, beautiful, loud, and serious well told story. I give it a 7/10. It’s worth watching without the kids.
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