Ya.....ok so here's some set up. I am about to give you exactly what you will use as your simple way to discount everything I say before I say it if you liked this movie. Because I did not like this clusterf*ck of a movie at all. I have not read the book. Somehow I found a way to go through high school without taking a class that required this book to be read either before it or during it. (Even though several classes did do this, I just didn't take them by pure chance.) Additionally, this is the first movie I have seen that is directed by the intriguing Baz Luhrmann. I thought about watching Australia before watching this movie but I just couldn't find the time. It is 3 hours after all. And yes this also means that I have not seen Moulin Rouge! which I have heard from the critics is a great movie where all of this pizazz actually works, but boy does it not work here. This movie....so one of my friends at Rotten Tomatoes, Grae Drake, said it best. "Nothing in this movie is real, and it feels like it." It takes what is supposed to be a very realistic take on the American Dream and the booming 1920s (the book was written in 1925) and makes it all about the PARTIES! With GIRLS! And GRINDING! And ALCOHOL! And SPEAKEASIES DANCING TO MODERN RAP MUSIC! This movie completely missed the theme of the book, which is asking the question of whether or not the American Dream can actually be attained or not. I know I never read the book, but I Sparknoted it in preparation for this, (ya, I'm kind of a big deal) and when I read this synopsis of the theme of the book, I was shocked. Because I didn't even remotely get that from the movie. I interpreted the movie as a character study on Jay Gatsby, how he liked parties and girls and boos and was elusive and rich, and somehow was in love with a not-so-attractive Carey Mulligan. Oh we'll get to her. But this movie just looks so....fake. Even the characters here feel absolutely fake and not even human. I wish I could make a comparison to another Baz movie here, but I cannot. All I can say is that in this one, the setting was so fake and way to over the top that it just completely took me out of the experience.
So...acting portion. The only person here that gave even a remotely decent performance was DiCaprio. Of course. But even he can't make the terrible writing sound good. I'm not hating on the book here. I have a feeling that this movie is nothing like the book. But one thing that he said (that I'm sure was also in the book) over and over was "old sport" to describe EVERYONE. He used this phrase soooooooooo much! Do not make a drinking game out of it because you will pass out before the movie is even halfway done. He even used it at times when it wasn't appropriate. It was so annoying. But overall DiCaprio just felt mechanical in this movie. He felt mechanical in delivering that line and he felt mechanical everywhere else. The only point where I thought that he had a good moment was when he got very upset with Joel Edgerton's character Tom Buchanon. Which was in the trailers by the way. Overall though this is one of the worst performances of DiCaprio's incredibly distiguished career. And then there's everyone else. There's no character development/story arcs to anyone other than Gatsby, and thus the acting greatly suffers too. Carey Mulligan should not be in this movie. At all. There should've been a generic hot girl playing this role, because there is no one (besides maybe Amy Adams) that could actually sell the character she is asked to play here.. Mulligan is a good actress, don't get me wrong. It's just that the character is just so....stupid! And when she makes her final choice, you see no conflict from her whatsoever. She just goes through the motions. Maybe that's exactly how it's supposed to be conveyed but I just didn't buy what she does at all. And Tobey Maguire. All he brought us as Nick Carraway was the ocassional dramatic eye stare. And when that wasn't on screen we could count on a dramatic leg cross from Joel Edgerton playing Mr. Buchanon! Dramatic. Leg. Cross. BAM. Yes I am making fun of the movie. I also did not like/enjoy the fact that Carraway narrated the whole thing. It was like going back to whenever we got reminded that old Tonto was narrating The Lone Ranger. Completely unnecessary. It's a cheap trick to imply that oh! Since this is happening obviously something dramatic must happen eventually! I don't need to see that! The very nature of a dramatic work is that something dramatic will eventually happen. Last I checked.
Wow so that acting portion became way longer than necessary. What's a damn shame here is that clearly effort was made here. A significant amount of effort honestly. The costumes are awesome. Might even receive an Oscar for that, believe it or not. Production design might as well. But the problem is everything else is just an absolute train wreck. Nothing here makes sense, and the whole Baz Luhrmann directing style (which is very similar to The World's End director Edgar Wright, just more disjointed and ADD) makes this movie very disorienting and even hard to watch, especially in the first act. Honestly, even if you've read the book I would stay away.
The Critique: um.....what? An incredibly disorienting movie that is almost impossible to follow. One of the worst movies of 2013.
The Recommendation: avoid like the plague
The Verdict: 2/10 garbage (the only thing that saves it really are the costumes and the Jay Z score is kind of cool, despite it being massively out of place)