By Caitlyn Collins | May 9, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Lurhmann (screenplay), Craig Pierce (screenplay), F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel)
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan, Isla Fisher, Adelaide Clemens, Stephen James King, Olga Miller, Heather Mitchell, Gus Murray, Kate Mulvany, Barry Otto, Kasia Stelmach, Gemma Ward, Felix Williamson
Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby simultaneously captures the beauty and utter chaos of the early 1920’s. Luhrmann, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Craig Pierce, brings to life the cynicism of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel as he lures his viewers into the tantalizing world of Gatsby.
Nick Caraway (Tobey Maguire) gives up his dream of becoming a writer and begins to teach himself all there is to know about Wall Street bondsmen. The stock market continues to boom and New York City is seething with wealthy heirs and the nouveau riche. Doe-eyed Caraway moves to a small cottage on West Egg to be closer to the city and his job. His begins to hear whispers of the grandeur of his neighbor, but it is not until he pays a visit to his cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), that his suspicions as to the identity of this neighbor are confirmed.
Daisy is rather unhappily married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a philandering member of old money society and a classmate of Caraway’s. Daisy spends her days idly, often in the company of her best friend Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki). A knowing look forms Daisy’s expression when the dinner conversation turns to the subject of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Luhrmann doesn’t fully introduce Gatsby until the first twenty minutes of the film have passed. His entrance is almost as staged as one of his infamous parties, but DiCaprio as Gatsby is charming and charismatic. The acting overall is incredibly well done, DiCaprio’s performance in particular. One of the greatest scenes in the film occurs during what is supposed to be a casual tea at Caraway’s cottage. Gatsby is anxious to meet Daisy and does everything he can to turn Nick’s cozy abode into a place suitable for her. Gatsby is anxious, pacing back and forth, until he finally decides he can’t bear it any longer, which is the precise moment Daisy arrives. The scene is sweet and hopeful, one of the few to give real substance to both Daisy and Gatsby. Several of the scenes between Daisy and Gatsby convey the feeling of pure love and complete anguish, making one recall the other Luhrmann/DiCaprio collaboration, Romeo and Juliet.
The juxtaposition of the extremes of wealth and poverty of the time are particularly evident during the driving scenes between the East and West Eggs to the city of New York. The land in between is almost a no-man’s-land full of forgotten signs and poor coalminers. Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher) is trapped here in the land between the wealth of her lover, bad boy Tom, and the potential of the skyline of New York City where Tom keeps an apartment for her. The film is littered (or shall I say glittered) with party scenes galore and the soundtrack throughout the majority of these scenes attempts to be both contemporary and of the time. While this worked flawlessly for Romeo and Juliet, there is a bit of a disconnect in this film.
My biggest complaint with the film has nothing to do with the direction or acting and everything to do with its being screened in 3D. While there are moments of anticipation and even suspense, the 3D aspect is completely unnecessary; this isn’t the typical action-packed Hollywood blockbuster. Further, it negates the effectiveness of some of the other graphic elements used throughout the film. Fitzgerald’s prose is flashed on screen occasionally, reminding the viewer of the beauty of his words. In comparison, the dialogue itself tends to be a bit flat. While this is generally true of film adaptations, it causes the film to fail in doing the novel justice
Despite knowing how the story ends, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is so fun and glamorous at times that I was almost shocked by the unfolding of the story. Relationships are complicated at best, and with Fitzgerald’s provocative characters, we get a feel for his critical look at human nature. Luhrmann’s adaptation is one for the books.