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Movie Review: The Great Gatsby 3D

‘Gatsby’ spectacular but not so great (Our grade: C+)
The Great Gatsby 3D
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 142 min
MPAA rating: PG-13
Release Date: 2013-05-10
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By "Dale Roe"
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman

Let’s start out by agreeing that I’m long since past high school, and this is not a book report. Anyway, those viewers who head to the cineplex to see “The Great Gatsby” expecting to see a literary — much less literal — retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel will likely be disappointed. The story has undergone a “two-and-a-half-hour Luhrmannizing.”

Baz Luhrmann, the director of “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!” has re-bound this tale of love postponed and eventually lost with his signature and singularly excessive visual style.

The camera dips and dives over the computer-generated waters that separate mysterious, obscenely wealthy Jay Gatsby from the object of his affection, Daisy Buchanan. It weaves and flies through the crowds at the outlandishly extravagant, claustrophobics’ nightmare parties that Gatsby throws at his palatial estate, barely dodging the dancers, who seem like refugee acrobats from a particularly hedonistic circus sideshow. It careens alongside Gatsby’s custom yellow behemoth of a roadster as the vehicle itself practically flies down the roads between lush, new-money West Egg and the cold skyscrapers of Manhattan.

It all seems so unreal. If that was Luhrmann’s goal (and I can understand the desire to make Gatsby’s outsized life and its trappings seem supernatural), the director overshot his mark. The result is that much of the film appears to have been shot in front of a green screen, lending it an air of detachment that, unfortunately, extends to the cast.

It’s hard for the viewer to invest emotionally in any of these characters when, frankly, they appear to be so far removed from emotion themselves. Gatsby, his young neighbor Nick Carraway, Daisy and her imposing, millionaire husband Tom — they keep telling us how they feel but rarely seem to actually feel the emotions they describe.

Joel Edgerton (“Zero Dark Thirty”) fares better than the rest. His arrogant, cheating Tom — just on the edge of brutish — often rings true. The artifice apparent in Leonardo DiCaprio’s reading of Gatsby is distracting, but it could be genius since his entire persona is, after all, a calculated and carefully constructed facade.

Tobey Maguire just seems out of place, which doesn’t work as well for the character of Carraway as you might expect, and Carey Mulligan’s lazy Daisy — is the character bored or is it the actress playing her? — is too nice, lacking the girl’s self-centered petulance when she shows any character at all.

That’s not to say “The Great Gatsby” is horrible. It’s a spectacle, and who doesn’t enjoy an occasional spectacle? It’s interesting, although I realize that applying that adjective to a film is about as welcome as applying it to someone’s newborn child.

One of the elements that I expected to hate — the Jay-Z rap-infused soundtrack — was actually one of my favorite things about the film. I’m not rushing out to purchase the soundtrack but, in the context of the movie, it worked extremely well, with Luhrmann’s schizophrenic visuals to drive the party scenes — whether at Gatsby’s estates or a cramped New York apartment — to a fever pitch.

It almost seems as if the director is priming the pump for the inevitable Broadway musical.

Get ready for “Gatsby!”

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May 9, 2013 - Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman - Dale Roe

Let’s start out by agreeing that I’m long since past high school, and this is not a book report. Anyway, those viewers who head to the cineplex to see “The Great Gatsby” expecting to see a literary — much less literal — retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel will likely be disappointed. The story has undergone a “two-and-a-half-hour Luhrmannizing.”

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