Saw The Great Gatsby last night and didn’t really like it. While I did enjoy the scene at the Plaza and a few other moments, I felt the film was largely unnecessary. Also, just as I feared, the soundtrack was terrible. There’s even a moment where Gatsby and Nick are driving into town and as a car pulls up next to them, a Jay-z tune is playing in the background. What the what?
I took particular issue with a review that James Franco wrote for Vice defending the film. I couldn’t disagree with him more.
“… The jazz music of the 20s was raw and dangerous, but if Luhrmann had used that music today, it would have been a museum piece – irrelevant to mainstream and high culture alike, because they would’ve already known what’s coming. There have been objections to his use of 3D, but frankly it’s a non issue It works, and is neither distracting nor game changing. You just deal with it because you want to. It’s fun to watch.“
I don’t understand this argument. You’re going to leave the setting the same but update the music to modern day hip hop and electronic club mixes? It left me viewing an awkward and confusing film that didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be. It infuriated me that anyone thought the mixing of the setting with that soundtrack had been a good idea.
Some could bring into question his adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Luhrmann took the dialogue from the original play and injected it into a modern day setting. While I haven’t seen the film myself, I would have no issue with this. At this point, Luhrmann is doing exactly what Franco wanted him to do – updating an original story for a contemporary audience. However, with Gatsby, taking the original story and setting and throwing in a bunch of distracting music shouldn’t count as updating it for a modern audience.
Also, for someone who saw the film in 2D, the scenes meant for the 3D version had been extremely distracting. It honestly felt like Lurhmann wanted to make a 3D film so badly that he just used the story of The Great Gatsby so his movie could actually have some substance. The swooping camera shots and the continuous use of CGI were not meant for a film so grounded in subtlety and drama. Sure, it played up the grandness of Gatsby’s parties but when you’re moving into other scenes, it makes feel like a gimmick rather than an enhancement.
It frustrates me even more because I genuinely enjoyed the cast. I thought Mulligan, DiCaprio and Edgerton were fantastic in their roles. They really nailed the film’s most important scene at the Plaza hotel. If Luhrmann just settled down and let the actors do their jobs, we could have had a great movie. Instead everything just screams “Hey, look at how creative I think I am!”
Such a wasted opportunity.