It’s rare that a film irritates me with its woefulness to such a point that I pick up the laptop to write the review while I’m still watching it. Sadly, Mark Anthony ‘Baz’ Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby [2013] had me reaching for my Vaio after the opening credits.

I’d like to temper my hate filled vitriol by also stating that whatever this is, is far from being my favourite genre, and by admitting that after Strictly Ballroom [1992] (which was compulsory viewing at high-school) and Romeo + Juliet [1996] (a date), I opted to not bother with any of Luhrmann’s other films. It pains me to admit it, because of how it makes me (further) lower my admiration for the rest of my species, but I suppose that some people probably like his style. They are fucking idiots! Within the first few minutes I am assaulted by a frenetic, messy and basically schizophrenic direction that serves only to make me queasy and disinterested.

Sure, it was already going to be hard to convince me to like this film, given that if you put together a cast of every actor who aggravates me [1], you’d have this cast. The acting across the board is poor, the characters are all hateable and thier motivations absurd. Tobey Maguire is THE WORST guy to have doing a voice over, from shitty odd inflections, to terrible timing and phrasing: he sounds like he is trying to make everything twice as emotionally charged as it is…even during the bits of his voice-over that explain things like ‘it was a sunny day and I had been invited to lunch.’ Furthermore, the voice-over, as in so many other films that rely on it too heavily, comes across as clunky, obvious exposition and a crutch for a talentless director. But the annoying voice-over is actually indicative of everything else that is wrong with this film: that it is impossible to suspend disbelief and get into the narrative even for even a second because of the relentless, non-stop, tacky directorial interference with what is purpoted to be a pretty strong story without all the glitz and shit.


The voice-over, slow-motion, fast-motion, rapid cuts, over-the-top soundtrack (both diegetic and non-), the horrible (tacky and poorly animated) CG flourishes, endlessly moving camera (pans, sweeps, zooms, follows, tilts, tracks, pedestals, dolly’s, cranes, etc.), focus-shifts, more rapid cuts, fades, endless location, context and set-up shots, type over the film, and generally vapid glitzy shit completely devoid of substance and meaning are so tiring. After 40 minutes, it felt like I had been watching 2-hours of montage. I would hope that maybe the relentless interference would stop sometime during the first act, but unfortunately it just keeps on bludgeoning ones sensibilities right up until the end of the credits, when the screen, thankfully, finally fades to simple, welcomed, black. Oh and the lighting was atrocious: it took me most of the film to finally work out what the problem was, but more often than not the focussed soft lighting on the characters faces had so little to do with the backgrounds that it felt like one of those movies [2] that was shot entirely in front of a green screen and heavily CG’ed in post-production…it was.

And it’s not as though all this empty opulence is actually audio/ visually impressive, it is sad, old, tired and shit – so far from cool and contemporary that it makes me, a 30 year old male, cringe for the young kids. The bad hip hop techno grime swing jazz fusion soundtrack is terrible, and sadly dated with songs like Jay-Z’s Izzo (HOVA) [2001], old Beyoncé stuff and, the epitome of bad hip-pop, the Black Eyed Peas. That said, when (after about 20 minutes) Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio [3]) was finally introduced to Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) and Luhrmann shamelessly appropriated Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue [4] – which, only a filmic heathen, an animator or an egotist with delusions of divinity would use after Woody (Allen) did in Manhattan [1978]. I was personally affronted, and had to leave the room for a few minutes to cool down.


The natural and obvious irony is that making an empty substanceless film about a man that is empty and substanceless; or, just as valid, making a film that is set in the 20s but is pathologically incapable of not flaunting its historical inaccuracies about a man whose own history is inaccurate… but that sort of digressive thinking is giving this film (even though the credit lies in the analysis) too much meaning and I don’t want to attribute any value, whether intentional or not, to this vacuous tribute to excess.

Some may say that one shouldn’t expect more than a celebration of excess from a ‘Baz’ film, a harkening back to days of yore when film ‘spectacle’ was what theorist Tom Gunning refers to as ‘The Cinema of Attractions’, but I feel that sadly ‘Bazza’ is caught up in Guy Debord’s ‘Society of the Spectacle’. I expect the same as I expect from any filmmaker: a good film.


Ultimately, what Luhrmann does is manage to take any vestigial resonance that this frankly out-dated, over-rated and arguably no longer particularly relevant story may have once had before the characters, their morals & actions, and the situations fell so far into the past that they became alien to our current condition. He turns it all into meaningless mush – effectively confirming the worst post-modern fears, by making the referent as hollow as the referee.

[1] For the record, in no particular order, my most-hated actors are Toby Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Sturgess, Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst, Samuel Johnson, Nicholas Hoult, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah –Jessica Parker, Shia LeBeouf, Sam Worthington, etc…Ok I have a lot of hate to give…

[2] And the really early ones like Casshern [2004], Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow [2004] or the Star Wars prequels (all of which were better films)

[3] Within the first few seconds that he is on screen, whether in credit to Leonardo’s acting or in discredit to it, Gatsby is completely unbelievable and appears to be a total sociopath without a shred of humanity – actually, unless Baz was seriously changing up the main character’s profile, this is a sign of poor filmmaking/ acting.

[4] Incidentally, written in 1924: 2 years after the setting of the film. One of a number of anachronisms, of which imdb picks up only a few – I drafted a couple more in the imdb edit section before realising that I was being both pathetic and a pedant.