Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Movie Review: THE GREAT GATSBY - 9.5 Stars, Spoiler Free!

What a treat! If you've read other critics panning the movie - do not listen to them! I can't emphasize this enough. Make up your own mind. But do go and see it. Take a look at RottenTomatoes. The critics have THE GREAT GATSBY at 49% currently (a joke), while the actual paying audience has it at 84%! These critics are WAY out of touch with reality. Further, TGG enjoyed an opening weekend of $50m+!

I felt reinvigorated and thoughtful upon leaving the theater. Think the opposite of how you feel after a explosion filled action movie. Think culturally relevant. If you don't go see this movie in theaters, in 3D, you are doing yourself a disservice. This is art in motion and in sound.

Here's the storyline for the movie:
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a young man from Minnesota, moves to New York to learn about the bond business. He rents a house in the swanky West Egg district of Long Island. He eventually meets his neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and gets caught up in his world of extravagant parties and people. 

Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this story deals with the allure of fame and fortune, as well as the unbreakable bond of first love.

I'm going to jump right into the review...

Story - 98%. Adapted from one of the greatest writers we have ever known, F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY delivers an extremely satisfying drama that pulls you in and doesn't let go. Brilliant characters illuminate the story from beginning to end and their journey is full of joy and peril. Life can flip on a dime and these characters live it. Almost flawless and wonderfully adapted, you won't want for a better trip away from your own joys and perils.

Acting - 95%. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby. His development as an actor has been a work in progress over the years. I remember seeing him in THE QUICK AND THE DEAD and thinking wow, this kid's going to be amazing in a few years. He hasn't let me down. His portrayal of JG captures his intense yearnings, patience, timidness and ultimately his obsessiveness - all brilliantly done. Director Baz Luhrmann's camera captures every nuance of JG's emotion through all the glitz and glamor of the era. I can't think of better casting. One scene in particular, again in the hotel room - Jay Gatsby reveals a chink in his emotional armor and perfectly summed up my thoughts on DiCaprio as Gatsby: Range and authenticity.

The only reason why I didn't give the acting a 99% or even 100% is Tobey Maguire. I am not a fan. His personality is appropriate diminutive in this movie, hinting at why he was cast, but Maguire just doesn't have believability. Nick Carraway needed to be more in awe, more out of place, more insane (at times) and have much more of a change by the end. He witnesses a great deal of things. Carraway needed to CHANGE much more than Maguire portrayed and I just didn't believe him as an actor. Still, he wasn't horrible. Miscast, but ok.

I've become more and more of a fan of Carey Mulligan of late. I first took note of her in DRIVE - she plays wonderfully enamored women who seem to fall for the wrong man. Perfectly cast as Daisy Buchanan.

Character Development - 92%. A wonderful and gradual exposure to Jay Gatsby was timed perfectly to continue with the wonderful and gradual exposure of what he was up to! Maguire's character should have gone deeper visually (the story was fine). I loved the evolution of Daisy 's character into the pure state of confusion. I must revisit this movie again soon to see how Luhrmann did it! Normally I am watching technique as much as the story itself, but I was lost in this movie so many times that I simply must investigate Luhrmann's technique in certain scenes once more. The hotel room scene toward the end in particular.

Suspension of Disbelief - 88%. I am conflicted on this section because on one hand sits the most wonderful treatment of Times Square I have ever seen for that era or any era for that matter (especially with the 3D), but on the other rests some fairly poorly painted mattes that had me shaking my head. Further the industrial blue collar zone outside of New York looked like more of a fantasy than reality. Like a purgatory. Perhaps it is meant to be that metaphor. I haven't read the book (I know!) so I can't comment on the various book club discussions on it's meaning. Perhaps it's due to it being told through the memory lens of an insane Carraway. Regardless, Times Square was amazing and I so wanted the camera to linger on that scene for much, much longer. The modern score helped draw me in as well. Not as a historical piece no, but as if I were there - accepted into - and at home with these characters.

Directing - 98%. What can I say? Almost perfect. This is art to me. Something I could watch over and over and over again and see something new every time. Without exception. That's art. It reminds me of standing in The Louvre and ogling paintings for hours, then going back and doing it again. It's moving to see beauty and it's all the more rare these days to see it in a motion picture. Heck, THE GREAT GATSBY belongs IN the Louvre. There are some continuity issues (pen position on paper, etc) but that's nitpicking (it did however break my suspension of disbelief). Baz Luhrmann's movies are pieces of art, but none as effectively done as THE GREAT GATSBY. It's a tour de force of imagery, sound and story magnificently woven with the unforgettable strands of a literary classic in stunning 3D immersion.

Sound / Score - 95%. Luhrmann took a big risk (as he likes to do; ROME + JULIET in Shakespearean tongue for example) with the music for GATSBY using modern day artists and their music as the thunder behind his visual lightning. And when I say modern artists, I mean an impressive list of the who's who in today's music: Jay Z, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Ray, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Bryan Ferry,, Fergie, The xx and U2. Of course there's a little Cole Porter in there too. Some small amounts didn't work - like Beyonce's "Crazy In Love". All that did was flash some of the music video in my mind. For me, 95% of it worked. Big time. It drew me in. I was engaged and actively participating in all the grandeur. Just a wonderful, wonderful double edged palette knife of sight and sound being mixed together and presented on the giant Real D screen. Thank you Baz Luhrmann for taking risks.

Cinematography - 99%. Yeah. It's tight. As close to perfection as you can get with actually being perfect. The lighting! WOW. Just spot on lighting. I was just sitting back thinking to myself "Just soak it all in". I was in awe of just how magnificent everything looked! Opulence. Opulence. Opulence. The makeup was amazing too. Closeups betrayed nothing out of place. Even when Gatsby returned from the rain (in the trailers), his closeup and full shot was flawless - arguably one of the most important shots of the movie (Jay meeting Daisy again). Why not 100%? Some of those matte paintings. That's it.

Visual / Special / Stunts - 82%. The only real weakness of the movie. Matte paintings were weak. The car racing scenes were great but could have been better. Times Square brought me back over 80% satisfaction though.

Stereoscopic 3D - 95%. This my friends, is a BIG deal. THE GREAT GATSBY is an adult drama that utilized 3D the way it was meant to be - to draw you into a story. Just as Luhrmann's use of visuals and sound draw you in, his artistic use of 3D sealed the deal. I WAS there. In the parties. In the emotion. In the story! You have to see it to believe it.

A standing ovation for 3ality Technica for their impeccable native 3D services and equipment! I'm proud to have them as a sponsor. I truly am.

One shot in particular has Jay Gatsby throwing an object into his pool on an angle from the camera and the resulting splash was just at the right perspective (perfect really) to have me 'think' to move, but not too much to have me flinch! Such subtle command and control of the moving going experience has me giddy with anticipation for the new tentpoles that are shooting in native 3D. Luhrmann probably did the pool splash just to show you he could toy with you if he wanted to - he just doesn't want to water down his movie. Nothing that I can recall breaks the plane of the screen. It was all about immersion into the decadence of THE GREAT GATSBY. Luhrmann used 3D as one of his tools in this obvious labor of love. And I indeed loved it!

Do yourself a favor, go see this movie. Treat it like a cultural event... for the edification of your mind. Because that's what it is. Art. Culture. Life. Bravo Baz!

THE GREAT GATSBY is now playing.

Thank you to Empire Theaters for the screening! The Real D presentation was well lit and sounded remarkable!! The service was the typical excellence I have come to expect.

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Jim Dorey
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