Ok, finally saw the movie!The problem with new Gatsby is not overblown visuals per se but whole question of the director's vision.
Wanted to walk out about five times but just went to the men’s room to catch my breath ( etc) really and came back.Yes, what is going on here is that this is not Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, it is Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby…I was willing to accept that from the start.
(It seems to me, though, that in adapting the script Luhrmann is either crassing up the original all the time– the Valley of Ashes in the book is purposefully mysterious, Luhrmann tries to make it a HEAVY symbol of the pollution and waste problem of a wasteful society…..
But hey, right at the beginning there are aerial shots of Manhattan NOT as it was in 1922 but as it was in 1932...the Empire State Building and the really tall spires of Lower Manhattan were just a gleam in some developers' eyes in 1922. So you know right away the kinds of distortions ( or "carelessness" that are awaiting you in this version)....
Surprise– I thought the music was just fine--and I am not a big Jay Z fan--, in fact I thought it was one of the better aspects of the movie. It works, it works!! And I really liked the Indian actor who plays the gambler/gangster Meyer Wolfsheim, he is right on and is more believable than you might ever guess knowing he is a Bollywood star ....
The big problems are two: 1) Luhrmann throws all the dramatic material at us with the same level of force, even spelling it out--LITERALLY-- I mean, in one case the narrator's words (straight from the book of course) are dancing across the screen ( the other times the lines that appear are supposed to be as Carraway as narrator is typing them...which is part of the framing device of the movie)... 2) Why Nick Carraway is so impressed with the Daisy-stalking gangster Gatsby is never made convincing! This is not Di Caprio’s fault, it is Luhrmann’s. He botches this up somehow ( such as when Gatsby tells Nick the (maybe, finally) TRUE story of his life, suddenly instead of being in on the action it all takes place in long shot more or less (except for flashbacks that zip by in a really disjointed way) with Maguire’s flat accent summing it all up in --clumsily to say the least). I think all the actors did pretty damn well with what they were given, but when you have to start explaining motivations to yourself,when all this other material is being hammered home, you realize there is something half baked going on here ( For instance, you have to figure out for yourself that Wilson the gas station owner is as much in love with his wife as Gatsby is with Daisy or even more so and so he has been refusing to face the fact she has been cheating on him until he can no longer possibly avoid doing so
Edgerton’s character has, as some people have noted, more to do than Gatsby does ( by the way, Nick went to YALE with this Tom Buchanan person, NOW he is shocked that Buchanan is such a lout and such a self centered bully?)( and even more than vaguely evil, the calculatedly insinuating way he tells Wilson after Myrtle's death how "something has to be done" about Gatsby--who Wilson now thinks ran Myrtle over.).... ( Why is Nick rooting for Gatsby? I guess you could say that Nick cares for Daisy and would rather see her with Gatsby, as awful as Gatsby is when you think about it. But what person who REALLY cared about Daisy would want to see her with either one of these guys?). And Joel Edgerton also plays Buchanan with a great deal of common sense..for instance, when he realizes Nick is on Gatsby’s side in the hotel room, he just ASSUMES right away Nick has been “bought” (money, money) by Gatsby. From his point of view, what else would he think? And Carey Mulligan DOES act well as the Daisy part allows her, as I said… OK, three stars --maybe two and a half would be more like it, but only good, not “Great” by any means.
And it will be a long time before I ever see a movie by Baz Luhrmann again, that’s for sure. "Heavy handed" is an understatement when it comes to his directorial style... I do not even know why I would at first say three stars, when two and an half if is better...I mean, if I wanted to walk out but stayed just so I could say I had seen whole thing, a lot of other people will probably want to walk out too ( since the first 30 minutes of the movie are pretty entertaining (well, they were for me--people who love the original novel's tone will not), it will be some time before they get really antsy... I wonder if they will bother trying to get their money back). Also I suspect most of the people going to this have seen some other Baz Luhrmann film OR are such fans of DiCaprio..... OR will enjoy all the glitz..who knows , but Gatsby purists MUST stay away from this film or they will get upset and demand their money back for sure!! Otherwise, whole enterprise of watching it just knocked me out and I am as tired as hell!