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Of course, paintings trust the illusion of 3D to come naturally when needed. Gatsby's 3D cinematography is less integral than it was in Life of Pi, and, in 3D auteur terms, more akin to its use in Hugo: neat-looking, intelligently employed, but not exactly a revelation. Even so, there are some wonderful touches. When Nick goes into the city with Tom and his mistress Myrtle (Isla Fisher), gazing out into the windows of Manhattan, Luhrmann uses the 3D to pull some of the mini-tableaux forward, befitting Nick's drunken state. At this moment, and so many others, the movie sings like the musical it could have been, and almost is anyway. He's not in nonstop-showman mode, either; there are more evocative, less exuberant moments, as when Luhrmann uses the depth of 3D to compose a beautiful overhead shot with Gatsby lying at rest on the floor as Nick lies in anguish at the top of a winding staircase.
At 140 minutes, this Gatsby goes on longer than strictly necessary, especially considering the way the screentime of supporting characters like Myrtle, George, and Jordan Baker (played with sly delight by newcomer Elizabeth Debicki) gets sacrificed in favor of Gatsby, Daisy, Nick, and Nick's narration (even the movie's dedication to voiceover can't translate how much of the supporting characters are colored by Nick's description more than actual scenes in the book). The adaptation is a little unwieldy—half interpretation, half tribute. The interpretation, for the most part, works better, playing up the notion of idealization (Gatsby's of Daisy; Nick's of Gatsby), while the tribute de-prioritizes class differences and, according to NPR's Linda Holmes, the callow hypocrisy of Nick Carraway as well as the emptiness of spoiled rich girl Daisy. I'm wary, though, of bemoaning a movie missing "the whole point" of a novel as rich as Gatsby. Perhaps the only convenience of adapting great literature is having a starting-text too rich to require its every facet be served equally, fully, and perfectly. Luhrmann's film, true to Nick's warning to Gatsby, can't repeat the past: neither the authentic Roaring-Twenties experience so many imagine any adaptation owes the audience, nor, probably, the rush of love you may have felt for the book as a teenager or an adult or whoever you were when you first read it. Intentional or not, that gap feels resonant. In the aftermath of this movie (and its surprising, gratifying box office success—will auteur takes on summer-reading-list lit become a new summer movie programming slot?!), I wonder if it's possible to film a perfect Great Gatsby or if the book, at least for its most ardent fans, will remain a green light on a dock.