Sunday, April 27 2014, 03:12 PM MDT
Movie Review: The Great Gatsby
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton
Recommended To: Those willing to lessen their expectations and just enjoy the visual splendor that is Baz Luhrmann
Synopsis: Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves to Long Island to make his mark. There he is ushered in into the lavish world of his reclusive neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Review: F. Scott Fitzgerlad is my favorite writer. I prefer the heartache of Tender is the Night to the glitz and glamour of The Great Gatsby, but the opulence of the latter has always made it more attractive to Hollywood. When it comes to spectacle none do it better than Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo Juliet). Gatsby's parties are filled with beautiful people moving in and out of dance numbers. It's gloriously absurd. Even if the soundtrack is all wrong (you can't divorce the Jazz Age without losing a greater sense of the atmosphere) the visuals are perfectly intoxicating.
But Fitzgerald's novel isn't really a celebration of wealth and excess; it's a condemnation of the arrogance and lack of accountability that comes with money and power. It's about the unsustainable elements of the American Dream and a man who can't embrace his future without rewriting his past.
The first third of Luhrmann's film is appropriately superficial. It seduces you with the razzle dazzle of gorgeous people swaying from nowhere to West Egg and back again. When it comes time for the film to stray into the darker aspects of the novel it stumbles. This is partly due to the fact that all the minor characters are reduced to cameos. George and Myrtle Wilson linger at the edges of the screenplay and Nick's non-Gatsby adventures are completely glossed over. Daisy and Gatsby get the full spotlight while the subtext of the novel is left to linger in brief passages in Nick's narration.
I loved what Luhrmann did with Moulin Rouge and enjoyed the spirit of Romeo Juliet. For The Great Gatsby I wish he had been brave enough to not turn it into such a pop-culture mashup. As it is the actors and their characters tend to feel less important than the next giant set piece.
-Ryan Michael Painter