LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- THV 11 Film Critic Jonathan Nettles on Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby.
In my younger days, I was required to read a novel.
"It's the great American novel," said my 11th-grade English teacher.
I recall that at the time, I gave it my best effort. I think The Great Gatsby may have been one of the few assigning reading materials that I actually read all the way through.
If I saw a youngster of high school age in line to buy a ticket to 2013's visually stunning Baz Luhmann directed The Great Gatsby, I'd encourage him to save $10, go to the library and get the true version for free.
Let's keep this simple, here's what I liked:
1) Leonardo DiCaprio is an amazing actor. He's particular good at the mysterious Jay Gatsby, a man that you never really know anything about. All you learn is what matters. He was in World War 1 and he was once in love with a girl, the kind of love that doesn't fade by ways of war or time. When he smiled, you felt his joy, when he became red-eyed, you felt his pain, when he was mysterious, you wanted to be him.
2) The Great Gatsby looked good. The visuals (most of them) felt real and were very detailed. A house the size of museum felt warm and inviting. These were places that as an audience member, you wish you could go. Even small hotel rooms and tiny gas stations with small apartments above them felt charming and worth a visit of at least a few hours.
3) I liked that I didn't see it in 3D. While the visual landscape of the film was visually stunning, I had the feeling that were I watching it in 3D, I would have been overwhelmed by it all and missed the heart of the story, along with the subtlety's of the man who played Jay Gatsby.
Here's what I didn't like:
1) The first act. It didn't pull me into it. It lacked a certain depth from which it never quite recovered. I put it at the doorstep of the film's soundtrack.
2) The soundtrack. One of the mainstays of a Baz Luhrmann film is his use of modern music to accompany films that take place, years, decades before the music makers were even living. The Great Gatsby uses modern hip hop from the likes of Jay-Z (who served as Executive Producer on the film) to set the stage for type of lifestyle the main character was pretending to live. In a sense it worked, but in most, it felt distracting and disjointed. It didn't fit. It's hard to hear that soundtrack in a 1920's speakeasy.
Here's my conclusion. The Great Gatsby is a good enough film to get you through English class if you're in a pinch, meaning your book report is due tomorrow and you haven't read any of it. However, if you take that action you are missing a real treat and cheapening what could be a memorable reading experience.
Did I like the movie? Yes, but I'd rather read the book.