DVD review: The Great Gatsby

THE GREAT GATSBY (M)

Warner Bros, 143 minutes

BAZ Luhrmann should  make only musicals.

The Great Gatsby is a quasi-musical. Its jittery camera moves seem as if they’re trying to catch the rhythms of the Charleston and one of Gatsby’s guests is right when he likens a party scene to an amusement park.

The turrets and crenellations of the Gatsby castle on the shores of Long Island Sound bear a strong resemblance to the Disneyland logo.

Every line of dialogue is underlined by music. Not that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose is neglected. The voice-over narration is relentless, delivered by Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway, whose reedy drawl battles to do justice to the more mellow music of Fitzgerald’s sentences.

Maguire has to anchor the film and he’s not nearly strong or interesting enough for the job. He’s fine during the lighter moments. His mild manner and habitually quizzical expression strike the right comic notes, but the more serious stuff leaves him blank-faced.

Fortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby is more compelling and now the baby face has matured into classic handsomeness, he can turn on the Gatsby glamour but he, too, has difficulty fighting against the distractions of the surrounding sights and sounds.

In the film’s first half, Luhrmann’s direction is so nervy that he can’t let a sequence run for more than 30 seconds without interruption. There is much inter-cutting and overlaying with swooping transitions between locations and a proliferation of funny angles.

The script does some tinkering with the novel. Nick is telling the story from a sanitarium where he’s gone to recuperate from a breakdown following his experiences with Gatsby, Daisy and Tom, her boor of a husband, played with swaggering conviction by Joel Edgerton.

Nick’s therapist (an avuncular Jack Thompson) suggests his patient would do better to write an account of what has happened instead of trying to talk about it. And it’s not a bad ploy since it puts the following events in context without giving away too much too soon. But you don’t really need to see Nick’s typed words come floating towards you  as he utters them.

Amid the overkill, there are assorted delights. One of them is Elizabeth Debicki’s Jordan Baker, the elegant young golfing champion with whom Nick falls half in love. And there’s the film’s greatest success – Carey Mulligan’s Daisy. Not only is she graceful enough to carry off costumes which might have swamped another actress, she has the voice for the part. Her silvery tones help craft a seemingly guileless performance edged with a languid sophistication. It also allows her to crack now and again, to reveal the helplessness that makes Daisy so dangerous.

But you don’t get much chance to dwell on these nuances until the film’s second half, when Luhrmann finally allows his stars some breathing space. And even then, he and his co-writer Craig Pearce are busy underlining everything. One of the joys of Fitzgerald’s style is his delicacy. He leaves room for your imagination to do some work of its own.

 Gatsby’s efforts to rewrite the past are translated into the sense of longing and regret he feels as he contemplates the stretch of water which divides him and his excesses from the old moneyed estates like the Buchanans’ on the other side of the bay.

As he stands gazing at this glittering expanse and the green light which shines from Buchanans’ dock, he might be wishing he could walk on water. It’s a message you get from the film, as well. But no imagination is required. It’s hammered into the dialogue with an insistence that strips the story of its ambivalence and its mystery. They really should have gone all the way and made 

Gatsby: The Musical.

Rating: ★★★

– Sandra Hall

DEAD MAN DOWN (MA 15+)

Universal Sony, 110 minutes

COLIN Farrell and Noomi Rapace make a provocative pair in this New York thriller with an explosive ending.

This dark, brooding story is unpredictable and unsavoury, yet grabbing.

Both actors have difficult roles, coming from two different places to an emotional meeting place in the middle of a dangerous situation. Rapace, who still seems to be on the outer of the American cinematic scene despite her fantastic lead as Lisbeth Salander  in the original Dragon Tattoo movies, slowly reels in Farrell, eventually getting him to do her bidding.

Rating:★★★

– Jim Kellar

DEADFALL (MA 15+)

Hopscotch Entertainment, 91 minutes

CRIME thrillers are such a saturated genre, it’s hard to find a new seam, a new vein, that captures your attention and draws you in.

Perhaps the secret in this case is the attraction of the two leading actors, Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde, as brother and sister Addison and Liza. They are on the run, a cunning pair with Bana the emotional master of his sister ever since their traumatic childhood days.

Bana is fearless, ruthless and violent, a bedeviling spirit with a just a touch of kindness.

Wilde, forced to find her own way out of trouble, is befriended by a just-out-of-jail Charlie Hunnam, and shows signs of pulling away from the potent force of her big brother.

The showdown comes at Hunnam’s parents’ country house, with Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek teaming up as wholesome parents who only want what  is best for their son.

If you can stomach Bana as the bad guy, you will get your thrills out of this flick.

Rating:★★★

– Jim Kellar

WINNERS

THE winners of last week’s DVD, The Walking Dead Season three were:  Kathy Kelly, of Kahibah; Diane Grogan, of Whitebridge; Jann Bessant, of Raymond Terrace; Martin Laws, of Hinton; and Edward Kucharski, of Rutherford.

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