Secondly, I love Baz Luhrmann. The first time I saw Moulin Rouge I loved it so much I watched it every day for a week. Romeo + Juliet has a secure place in my DVD case. What draws me to his pieces are his interesting uses of colour and costuming, but most importantly his juxtaposition of modern and historical. True-to-Shakespeare dialogue coupled with flamboyant Hawaiian shirts may be discordant to some, but to me it was a bold and brilliant pairing.
It should therefore come as no surprise that I had high hopes for The Great Gatsby. With Baz Luhrmann at the helm, Carey Mulligan as Daisy and an interesting time period as the setting, I was ready for a costume drama of beauty and wit. And it was beautiful. And there were parts of it that were witty. And Carey Mulligan was outstanding. But I couldn't help but feel that the movie was just simply lacking.
As I pondered why I didn't come out of the theater absolutely raving, I wanted to make sure that I could fully justify this lackluster response. I wanted so desperately for it not to be a problem with the director or the actors or the set design. And the more I thought the more convinced I became that they weren't.
The problem is that The Great Gatsby, the story, is not that great. It may be a piece of fiction that can readily convey to high school juniors the perils and mind set of the Jazz Age, but it does not translate well into what should have been a fast-paced roaring good time of a movie. The only antagonists are the central characters, and even then their machinations are selfish and ultimately quite petulant. Whereas Moulin Rouge had the insanely jealous, thin mustachioed, devious Duke, The Great Gatsby merely had a billboard.
The music was contemporary, featuring songs by Lana Del Rey and Jay-Z. I was excited about this, because I thought that it would have the same cohesive effect that U2 and The Police had for Moulin Rouge. But because the music played a background role I thought much of it got lost to the panoramic scenery and hard-hitting questioning of, "Just who is this Gatsby fellow?"
There might not be many who would agree with me, but I would much rather the movie have asked, "Who is John Galt?" Modern politics aside, Atlas Shrugged is a novel of genius characterization and lofty plot. Debutante Dagny Taggart and playboy Francisco d'Anconia would be perfect foils for Luhrmann's creative style. Add a little Marina and the Diamonds and The Black Keys to the soundtrack and you have a story virtually begging to be a part of the Luhrmann line-up. And for those of you who know that the story is 1000 pages long, let me tell you that in the right hands it could be pared down to be a fast-paced blockbuster.
So I guess that is what my final conclusion about the movie is. Although it is a visual feast befitting Luhrmann's portfolio with quality acting and some truly to-die-for costuming, the story itself was a poor choice.