Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Amitabh Bachchan, Jack Thompson
Release Date: May 10th 2013
Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby explodes in theaters nationwide today. It is a dizzy, dazzling and deliberate story of decadence and the movie brings F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel to life in a brilliant fashion. With a few tweaks here and there of the novel, the director and his strong cast have created a visually-impressive world that is not to be missed.
The story begins with narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) opening up the plot from a mental asylum. In a departure from the book, Carraway is telling his story to both the audience and to a psychiatrist, who learns about Gatsby alongside the viewer. Carraway speaks of his time spent living next to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man that few know anything about and even fewer care to. He holds brilliant parties every weekend and the mysteries beyond this young millionaire only add to his allure.
Gatsby, embodied by the captivating DiCaprio, is a man of longing. He longs to have true friends and to rekindle the romance he once enjoyed with Daisy Buchanan(Carey Mulligan), a beautifully fragile woman whose seductive presence clouds Gatsby’s judgments. What is the attraction? As Gatsby says, she showed him “how extraordinary a nice girl can be.” Gatsby uses Carraway to reunite him with his former lover, which brings him quickly into a battle with her philandering and abusive husband Tom (Joel Edgerton).
The first half of the production celebrates Gatsby and his lifestyle drawing viewers into a world of pomp and power. This is where Luhrmann’s stylistic impulses seem perfect for the story. The director behind Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! knows how to make a scene that nearly bursts off the screen and he does that ably during the first Gatsby party that Carraway attends. The party is gleaming, glistening and glamorous, creating an intoxicating atmosphere for the viewer who can’t wait to see what happens next.
As the story becomes more solemn in its second half, Luhrmann’s presence is less prominent letting the story unfold in a dramatic fashion. The acting takes center stage as Gatsby seeks to relive the past, despite Carraway’s warnings about it. “You can’t repeat the past,” Gatsby responds to Carraway at one point, “Of course you can. Of course you can.”
Like in the book, many of the main characters in the story come to vivid life in the film, including the powerful Gatsby and Daisy, the woman whose true feelings are never fully realized in either work. Carraway, ironically, is given the short shrift onscreen as his character isn’t as realized or interesting as it is in the book. He is, after all, the narrator but the book focuses on it a bit more than the movie cares to.
As the title shows, this is a story about Gatsby above everything and he is given a lot of room to show his personality.
To be noted, I reread the novel only a few days before seeing this onscreen adaptation and I was a bit disappointed by some of the characters who were toned down here (including Gatsby’s father, who serves a subtly important aspect in the novel). But as a whole, The Great Gatsby is a multi-colored triumph. With a beautiful soundtrack, great acting and a director whose style fits the main character’s lifestyle so masterfully, this is a film that is an experience that will be hard to forget.
In other words, go see it, old sport. You won’t regret it.
Review by: John Hanlon