The Great Gatsby movie poster
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The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby movie poster

The Great Gatsby Movie Review

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The traditional love story/social drama gets upended Baz Luhrmann style, with flashy special effects, dancing, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jay Z music. This isn't your grandma's The Great Gatsby, but that's okay. Especially since I don't remember grandma's version to begin with, if I ever saw it in the first place.

Baz Luhrmann's spin on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novella, which I did read in high school yet still don't remember, boasts a massive $127 million budget, a staggering amount considering the movie has little chance of making that much money back. After all, audiences aren't exactly clambering for 1920's era dramas, no matter who they star or how famous the source material is.

But is The Great Gatsby any good?

It's all in the eye of the beholder. But since I'm the beholder, and I have eyes, the answer is yes. Not oh-my-God-that-was-f**king-awesome yes, but yes. Others, such as people who hold Fitzgerald's classic dear to their hearts, or people who like totally ordinary movies, might hate it. It's hard to tell, because this The Great Gatsby is that kind of movie, a love-it-or-hate-it picture that deserves credit for doing something different, but doesn't exactly stand out like Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge or most of DiCaprio's movies.

While the special effects are exaggerated like a colorful, less seedy Dick Tracy, The Great Gatsby looks great, even in 3D. Crisp, clear and animated, the movie exudes energy from every pore, and coupled with a surprisingly fitting score/soundtrack. And yet at the film's core is the grounded story you'd expect, delivered by an A-list cast that includes DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan.

All the actors involve give greater performances, though as expected it's Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan's game. DiCaprio seems out of place for a while, but by the time the third act rolls around, it's clear why DiCaprio was cast for the title role. Mulligan is terrific, though she's been better elsewhere. Maguire is fine, but his character isn't given much emotional range.

Back to the movie. The Great Gatsby is entertaining and fun to watch, even when it's 140 minutes long and started half an hour late. The third act is powerful and makes the entire film worth it. But there's only one reason why a classic drama is remade for $127 million, and that's to win awards (or at least that was the plan, before the movie was pushed back six months from December 2012).

The Great Gatsby just doesn't cut it in that department.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan are good, but their chemistry is merely okay together. Their love for one another - at least Gatsby's love for Daisy - feels surface deep at times, and when the ending rolls around, her decision is a shrugworthy affair. The other characters are fun to watch, but like Gatsby's parties they feel like decorations, nothing more.

The Great Gatsby works on many levels, and most importantly it's entertaining. But it's not the epic romantic drama it should be given the budget and cast involved. Its move from the holidays makes more sense now, though whether audiences respond is another story.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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