Looking for something a little more urbane and sophisticated in your viewing diet? Well, if you’ve had enough of Downton Abbey for a while, settle in and get a shot of the Roaring Twenties in “The Great Gatsby,” a copy of which our friends at Warner Brothers sent out for review. This one won’t be hitting shelves until August 27, but for those who crave over-the-top visuals, there’s everything you could ask for here…and a little more besides.
“The Great Gatsby,” the adaptation of the Fitzgerald novel, follows writer in the making Nick Carraway as he finds himself leaving the Midwest for New York. While in the Empire State, he winds up living next to a millionaire by the name of Jay Gatsby. But while Gatsby’s life seems to be little more than an endless string of parties and lavish excess, there’s plenty more going on here, more than anyone would have seen coming. Nick, meanwhile, bears witness to the whole affair and records what he sees, believing that he may have stumbled on the perfect topic to write about.
It almost goes without saying, but due warning is necessary: there will be liberties–some might say considerable liberties at that–taken with the original source material. It’s really to be expected, as very few dramatizations are word-for-word precise. But it’s hard to deny the sheer grandeur of what we’re seeing. I mean, the images are breathtaking. Huge, sweeping aerial shots of bays and landscapes and cityscapes and just about everything in between. “The Great Gatsby” has this clear breathless quality to it that really doesn’t fade away. Most of the first half is a frenetic, almost nightmarish, assault on the senses–garish colors, brilliant lights of every intensity, and the music…the music, everywhere, a preposterous intermingling of jazz, swing, and the modern era–and even into the second half, it keeps up its pace, though it dials things down just a bit as it fires up the intrigue functions.
It’s hard to hate “The Great Gatsby,” because this has so much to it. There’s a blinding flashbulb of visual effects, but underneath that flashbulb there’s a world of events going on. A world of unsavory things, and things better left hidden. It’s so devoted to keeping up the image that it’s hiding that what it’s hiding just kind of pushes out at the edges, ominous for the sheer garishness of the mask that covers it.
Special features here include your choice of English, French, Latin Spanish or Portuguese dialogue, and the same in subtitle options, a featurette on adapting “The Great Gatsby” to the screen, a featurette specifically with Tobey Maguire, a piece about the film’s music, a featurette on the fashion of the 1920s in America, a set of deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a couple of further making-of featurettes, and trailers for “Gravity,” as well as for the original 1926 release of “The Great Gatsby,” though only “The Great Gatsby”‘s trailer will be available from the main menu.
“The Great Gatsby” is a thrilling, brilliantly crafted ride, as compelling on the surface as it is sinister beneath. This is very much worth seeing, every second of it a finely crafted joy.