Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

When you go see The Great Gatsby, make sure you stick around after the ending. Once the credits finish rolling, spoiler alert, the camera cuts to Thanos, the purple guy from the very end of The Avengers. He’s still smiling and laughing and getting his evil plans all in order for The Avengers 2.

That was a funny joke, right? Yeah, it’s just that, I’m not really sure how to write up a review for a movie like The Great Gatsby. It’s easy when I really like something, when I really don’t like something, or even when I think something is just really boring. That’s something to say, and I can say it, and I can try to make little jokes here and there.

But did I like The Great Gatsby? I don’t know. I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t totally boring. It’s kind of hard to make heads or tails of what’s going on, mostly because everybody that went through any sort of high school in the US, even if they didn’t do any homework or study for a single test, just by sitting in English class we’ve all sort of absorbed The Great Gatsby, the lighthouses, those big eyes on the billboard.


It was the symbolism of the novel, those little things that I forgot about, that after I had seen them on the screen, I was like, oh yeah, I remember my teacher from junior year going on and on about this scene or that scene. And the movie had about the same subtleties of a high school English teacher saying, “Remember that billboard. Remember those eyes. It’s going to be on the test,” every time they’d zoom in on an image, trying to distill what worked for the novel into wide-angle camera shots.

The movie was very cartoony. It reminded me of 300, the same kind of all-CGI background. This isn’t a critique, just an observation. Because, like I said, the story is so familiar, any Gatsby movie is going to wind up being an interpretation of sorts, and I guess I’d have to say that it was kind of cool, seeing the whole over-the-top 1920s depicted in over-the-top big studio movie special effects. If only I had gone for the 3D.

The acting was fine, with one exception being Tobey Maguire. For some reason, whenever I see this guy in any film, I can’t shake the jazz flute emo scene from Spider-Man 3 out of my head. Also, one time I saw this video clip totally out of context, Maguire was being harassed by some fan who wanted a picture, but he totally overreacted, slapped this guy’s camera out of his hands onto the ground. Maybe that guy deserved it, but I don’t know, you’re a celebrity, you’ve got to learn how to keep those impulses a little more in check.

Which really has nothing to do with The Great Gatsby, but like I said, I really don’t know what else to say. It was big. Everything was loud. There were some weird hip-hop music scenes in the beginning of the movie which didn’t exactly add to the whole 1920s feel. I thought the score got better as the movie progressed, they’d take modern songs and have them peppered throughout the movies as if they had been performed by bands of that era.

And again, it wasn’t a bad movie. The story made more sense to me than it did in high school. Maybe I should have been paying better attention in class. Maybe the director of this adaptation really dumbed down the plot. Or maybe it really was a faithful adaptation of a great American novel.

It’s not a love story, not really. It’s about wealth, power, life, how the drive of ambition, the American dream on steroids, it’s about wanting something, getting it, not feeling fulfilled, and wanting it even more knowing that the closer you get, the further it eludes your grasp. That’s the whole lighthouse thing, right?

I kept wondering as I watched the movie, are high schools still going to be able to teach The Great Gatsby? Are the teachers going to tell the kids not to watch the movie, “Trust us, kids, don’t think you can just watch the movie and be prepared for the test.” Because I think you totally could have just watched the movie and aced any Gatsby test. If I had a time machine, and I sent a copy of this movie back into the past, to when I was in the eleventh grade, would it have worked? I can’t be positive, but I want to say yes. Also, I’d send back a copy of this review with a note to my English teacher. It would say:

Dear Mr. Anselmo. Look at this whole eight hundred word document that I’ll eventually write about The Great Gatsby. Come on, you’d be lucky to get eight hundred words about anything from any one of your students. Just the fact that I’ll eventually think about all of the stuff you’re teaching right now means that sooner or later you’re going to get through to me. And so please consider upping my grade. I’m looking at my high school report card right now, and I’m really hoping that the letter grade is going to change in front of my eyes. Please. See you in the future, Rob G.