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Baz Luhrmann
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Amitabh Bachchan, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki
Writing Credits:
Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce, F. Scott Fitzgerald (based on the novel by)

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness ...

The Great Gatsby follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her philandering, blue-blooded husband Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Box Office:
$105 million.
Opening Weekend
$50.085 million on 3535 screens.
Domestic Gross
$144.710 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 142 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 8/27/2013

• “The Greatness of Gatsby” Featurette
• “’Within and Without’ with Tobey Maguire” Featurette
• “The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby” Featurette
• “The Jazz Age” Featurette
• “Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the ‘20s” Featurette
• “Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry” Featurette
• “Gatsby Revealed”
• Three Deleted Scenes
• Preview and Trailer for 1926 Great Gatsby
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Great Gatsby [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 19, 2013)

If you make an expensive, delayed period piece, I guess you want Leonardo DiCaprio to star in it. Back in 1997, Titanic ran over budget and got its release pushed back for months, both of which seemed to signal a disaster. Instead, the movie made an enormous amount of money to become one of the biggest hits of all-time.

Fast-forward 16 years to 2013’s The Great Gatsby. Another period piece, another high budget, another delayed release – and another hit. Well, to a decent degree, at least. Gatsby grabbed $144 million, which was a little less than 25 percent of what Titanic snared – not adjusted for inflation – so obviously it didn’t remotely replicate the 1997 film’s success.

Still, $144 million for a flick such as Gatsby deserves a lot of credit, as it doesn’t offer traditional “summer blockbuster” fare. Adapted from the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, alcoholic sanitarium resident Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) tells us his tale in flashback. In the summer of 1922, Nick abandons his plans to become a writer so he can cash in on the booming stock market. He retreats to a cottage in West Egg, New York so he can study the necessary techniques and claim a fortune.

Stuck amid a variety of mansions, however, Nick finds himself lured away from his research by a variety of temptations, many of which arise from the parties given by his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). Gatsby throws enormous blowouts but remains aloof and enigmatic.

Eventually Nick meets and befriends Gatsby, and he starts to involve himself in the mystery of his wealthy neighbor’s past. This area includes Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan). Married to brutish, cheating Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), Daisy knew Gatsby a few years earlier, and there remains a deep connection between the two that leads to a variety of complications.

Important disclaimer: I never read Gatsby. Apparently I attended the only high school in America that didn’t require students to take in that novel, so I came into the film without much foreknowledge of the tale beyond the superficial. This means that some of my criticisms may reflect elements found in the original text.

I suspect most of the movie’s problems are its own, though, as the always-flashy Baz Luhrmann creates a world that embodies the old “style over substance” cliché. Not that his visual affectations lack any purpose, as I think Luhrmann’s choices work for the film at times – mainly during the “Roaring ‘20s” elements meant to seduce us with the era’s wildness. When Luhrmann digs into Gatsby’s parties and similar sets, the lavish, dynamic sensibility feels appropriate.

However, Luhrmann engages in heavily stylized elements for just about every sequence through the entire film, and those choices fare less well. These tend to distract when we should find ourselves more invested in the characters; while we want to become involved in their affairs and emotions, the visuals call so much attention to themselves that they keep us at arm’s length.

That emotional distance really becomes a major flaw. I feel like I should've cared about the characters but I don't. This becomes a tragedy without much that moves me.

It probably doesn't help that I find Daisy to be one of the more unlikable characters I've seen in a while. Again, I never read the book, so I don't know if she seems as selfish and flighty there, but I just can't stand her in the movie. I understand that she needs to mistreat Gatsby for it to be a tragedy, but I still hate her.

Some of this stems from Mulligan’s presence as Daisy. While I think Mulligan is a talented actress, she never embodies a Daisy who seems to deserve all the adoration and fantasy bestowed upon her. As played by Mulligan, Daisy presents a moderately attractive woman with an annoyingly coquettish personality and little real charm – why does everyone become so smitten by her? With a more compelling/magnetic Daisy, I could buy all these events more easily, but as it stands, the story seems tough to swallow; she’s a lackluster apple of everyone’s eye.

I can’t say much positive about most of her co-stars either, as the lavish nature of the project threatens to swallow them whole; with so much visual excitement around them, nearly all of the cast members overact wildly to keep pace. DiCaprio offers the only notable exception, as he captures Gatsby in the film’s sole three-dimensional performance. Even when saddled with roughly 1293 utterances of the phrase “old sport”, DiCaprio finds his way to the role’s haunted core and displays both Gatsby’s flashy charm and his wounded interior.

Also in the positive category, the film’s mish-mash of musical styles works surprisingly well. Pre-release, Luhrmann’s decision to feature a soundtrack filled with modern material inspired a lot of negativity, much of which was ill-informed; plenty of people believed the entire score would be comprised of Jay-Z’s hip-hop songs.

That’s not the case, as the movie features a mix of modern artists as well as music appropriate for the 1920s. Luhrmann’s choice to use newer work fits his attempts to convey the brashness and excitement of the era. If he’d gone solely with period-accurate music, the result would’ve seemed dated and quaint to a modern audience; sorry, but it’d be hard for the residents of 2013 to sense much sizzle from “I’m Just Wild About Harry”, for instance.

Even though the film comes packed with contemporary music, it all meshes with events in such a way that I never felt aware of the seeming anachronisms. It’s a pretty remarkable achievement that the movie melds a wide variety of styles into one fairly seamless whole.

Too bad that the substance of Gatsby couldn’t match up with the visuals and audio. The film keeps us involved for a while, but eventually it hits a wall and its lack of depth cripples it. Gatsby never becomes a poor movie, but it ends up as a slow, superficial one.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Great Gatsby appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a good but not great presentation.

Actually, my only complaints connected to definition. While much of the movie displayed positive to excellent delineation, a few mild exceptions occurred, mainly in wide shots. I don’t know if this came as an outgrowth of the 3D photography, but occasional elements lacked the sharpness I’d expect from Blu-ray. Nonetheless, overall clarity was good, and I noticed no signs of shimmering or jaggies. The image lacked haloes or print flaws as well.

A heavily stylized movie opted for a heavily stylized palette. Gatsby followed the modern trend and went with orange and teal much of the time, though a fair amount of red entered the image as well, such as at Myrtle’s apartment. The Blu-ray reproduced the chosen colors in a satisfying manner. Blacks seemed dense and deep, and low-light shots exhibited good delineation. The periodic softness was enough to bump this down to a “B”, though much of the flick looked very good.

While not a slambang mix, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack suited it. The soundfield opened up the events acceptably well, though not in a particularly dynamic way. Most of the audio stayed focused in the forward channels, where those speakers featured good stereo imaging for the score as well as a nice sense of delineation for effects. The various elements were accurately placed and moved across the channels well.

The surrounds contributed reinforcement most of the time but contributed a bit of unique information on occasion. The smattering of party sequences worked best, and a few other exterior pieces added pizzazz. They did enough to help create a moderately involving setting.

Across the board, audio quality remained positive. Speech blended with the material and sounded natural. No problems with edginess or intelligibility occurred. The score sounded lively and dynamic, with tight lows and vivid highs. Effects also demonstrated nice dimensionality, as they appeared clean and appropriately powerful. This wasn’t a terribly impressive soundtrack, but it did what it needed to do.

Among the disc’s extras, we mainly focus on a mix of featurettes. The Greatness of Gatsby goes for nine minutes, 14 seconds and offers comments from director Baz Luhrmann, co-writer Craig Pearce, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Elizabeth Debicki. The piece looks at the source novel and its adaptation, location scouts, casting and an early workshop for the actors. Despite the program’s brevity, it offers a mix of useful elements; I especially like the video shots from the workshop.

We get a piece from the actor via ”Within and Without” with Tobey Maguire. Luhrmann introduces the eight-minute, 41-second reel and tells us that we’ll get a video from the set created by Maguire. That’s not 100 percent – or probably even 50 percent - true, as we also see images of Maguire as he films/works along with separate interview statements from Debicki and Maguire. Still, it’s a decent little look behind the scenes.

We shift to music with The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby. It lasts 12 minutes, 17 seconds and delivers notes from Luhrmann, DiCaprio, executive music supervisor Anton Monsted, executive producer Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, composer Craig Armstrong, and musicians Florence Welch, Bryan Ferry, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft. We get ample notes about the movie’s score and songs in this tight, informative piece.

A historical program, The Jazz Age fills 15 minutes, 43 seconds with some info from Luhrmann, but it usually sticks to F. Scott Fitzgerald-focused snippets from a Ric Burns-directed episode of The American Experience. The two sides don’t always mesh all that well, but we still learn a fair amount about the author and his era.

Style comes to the fore in Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the ‘20s. The 16-minute, 22-second featurette includes material with Luhrmann, DiCaprio, Maguire, Debicki, costume designer/producer Catherine Martin, and actors Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton. Martin dominates as we learn about costumes and jewelry. She gives us a nice overview of the style choices in the film.

Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry lasts six minutes, 55 seconds and features Martin and Luhrmann. They talk more about the challenge of adapting the original novel as well as aspects of the movie’s visual imagery. We find another involving program here.

Under Gatsby Revealed, we find five more featurettes: “Gatsby’s Party” (7:12), “Disconcerting Ride” (4:53), “Daisy and Gatsby Meet” (7:49), “The Plaza” (4:26) and “Pool Scene” (5:47). Across these, we hear from Luhrmann, DiCaprio, Pearce, Martin, Maguire, Debicki, Monsted, Mulligan and producer Catherine Knapman. They look at some specific segments of the film and give us info about their execution. The featurettes vary in quality but usually seem useful.

Including intros from Luhrmann (2:06), three Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 14 minutes, 24 seconds. We find “Nick and Jordan” (3:09), “Her Voice Was Full of Money” (2:24) and “Alternate Ending” (6:44). “Nick” develops that romance a bit more, and “Voice” delivers a minor revelation Gatsby has about Daisy. Finally, the “Ending” expands on some supporting characters, including the lead’s father. The first two seem pretty disposable, but the “Ending” offers elements of interest; it wouldn’t have worked well in the final film, but it’s fun to see.

The disc opens with an ad for Gravity. We also get a trailer for the 1926 Gatsby but not one for the 2013 version.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Gatsby. This lacks any of the Blu-ray’s extras.

2013’s The Great Gatsby gets an “A” for ambition but falters in terms of emotional resonance. The film defines “looks great, less filling”, as it usually fails to make us care about its characters or situations. The Blu-ray provides mostly solid picture and audio along with a reasonably informative set of bonus materials. Gatsby delivers an unusual enough take on its tale to merit a look, but don’t expect much substance or emotional impact from it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main