Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Elizabeth Debicki
After hearing lots of disappointments over this long-awaited adaptation of the novel, I went in with low expectations. Perhaps this helped a bit because although others have complained that the exaggerated style of the film was simply too much and left actual substance very little, I have to disagree. If you have seen Luhrmann’s past films, then this is exactly what you would expect from him. And being a fan of his past films, I’m happy to say I was a fan of this one as well.
Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) is infamous around Long Island. Every weekend, his gigantic mansion is the center of the most lavish parties that anyone is invited to. Strangely though, Gatsby has only been seen by few and known by none. Nobody truly knows who Gatsby is or what his motives are. That is, until Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves in next door. A war veteran that is making his small living selling bonds, Carraway, like many others, is intrigued by Gatsby. But unlike the others, Gatsby is also intrigued with him. Soon, Carraway discovers that his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), is the ex-lover of Gatsby. With this bit of knowledge, things about Gatsby become clear and Carraway has found himself becoming the guardian of his secrets.
It’s easy to see why Luhrmann was attracted to this story as it has many elements that are so Luhrmann-istic. Set in a time period that he can make vibrant and in-your-face, along with all of the story elements of tragedy and love, The Great Gatsby is a story that suits him. This movie is pretty long, at about 2 and a half hours, so I understand when others say that it was simply too long and dragged out the story, but really in this day and age, almost every movie is 2 hours or longer. I actually thought this film did a good job of pacing the story line over the span of the movie so that there wasn’t any super slow moments and it’s surprising to me when people say they got bored during it because Luhrmann creates a visually astonishing and intriguing world that pulls you in and also keeps the movie moving at a nice rhythm.
DiCaprio is the perfect embodiment of Gatsby. If you don’t appreciate anything else about this movie, you’ll appreciate him. He does not disappoint in this movie and he shows all the sides of Gatsby to us in very believable ways. This was a role that was definitely made for him. My only huge complaint about this movie had to be Maguire. I was iffy on the decision to cast him as Nick Carraway in the first place but left my mind open to the possibility that he could take this character and make it his. Unfortunately he did not do this. In fact, the character seemed to take in just too much of Maguire’s characteristics that truly just did not make sense as Carraway. Maguire comes off as too awkward and simply weird as he recites Fitzgerald’s classic lines and nothing with him just seems to fit right.
If anyone is to blame for lack of excitement in this movie, it’s F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not to say anything bad about the man, of course. Fitzgerald is a writer that has been celebrated for almost the last century, and I’m sure for years to come. But yes, this story is predictable, a little bit dry, and not incredibly unique, but that is how Fitzgerald wrote it. Luhrmann simply adapted it to the world of motion pictures. It’s surprising how many reviews and comments I’ve read complaining about the story of the film. I wonder if any of them read the actual novel! The novel itself is kind of dry so of course that will come out a bit in the movie, but Luhrmann uniquely mixes the story with a visual fantasy that works to keep things interesting, at least in my opinion!
In short, if you are a fan of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, then you’ll probably enjoy this rendition of Gatsby. However, I have discovered that people either love or hate Luhrmann’s films and if you hate them, you will most likely hate this one also. Despite complaints of Luhrmann suffocating the story with his vibrant and flashy style, I argue that this is the point of film. To take an idea and do with that idea what you please. If that means putting modern music in a film that is set in the Jazz Age, then so be it! In this case, it gave life to a story that has been told and talked about so many times that it was in need of a fresh perspective.