Baz Luhrmann’s movies are always flamboyant in one way or another and his latest, an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, is no exception. With wilder than wild party scenes, CGI effects and fantastical sets it’s a big affair for the little book.
Although it’s clear that there’s an element of going too far with the larger than life approach for the story of Jay Gatsby’s quest to reset the clocks, the strength of Fitzgerald’s original work shines through from beginning to end. So much so that it mesmerised the audience leaving them genuinely unsure of whether they should stay or go when the movie finished.
The film follows the plot of the book fairly accurately, starting out with the narrative of Yale graduate Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, as he looks back at the summer of 1922 in the fictional town of West Egg, Long Island. After moving to a little house next door to the mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby, Nick becomes embroiled in the lavish world of the roaring twenties and befriends the enigmatic Gatsby.
The role of Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin and Gatsby’s real reason for taking up residence in West Egg, is played impeccably by Carey Mulligan, who brings the glamour and fragility of the character to the screen adaptation. It’s added to by the commanding presence of Joel Edgerton as Daisy’s cheating husband, Tom Buchanan, helped along by his snidely little moustache.
Isla Fischer is almost unrecognisable as Tom’s mistress Myrtle, and Jason Clarke (Lawless) pulls off her dim, but jealous husband George with a good level of weighting. There’s also an introduction to recently discovered Australian actress, Elizabeth Debicki, who does brilliantly as the the sporty young women’s golf player and friend of one and all, Jordan Baker.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of the great Jay Gatsby to near perfection, and jokes about it being a pseudo continuation of the story of Jack from Titanic aside, he really is a good selection for the role (although if you’ve read the book you may be a little dubious about the height factor). He brings together the mystery, lies, anger, hope and honesty that F. Scott Fitzgerald created so brilliantly when he first penned the book.
Though in parts the ostentatious delivery of the film is effective, especially during the party scenes, there are others that take away the solidity that’s in abundance in the book. It gives the stunning story a little comic book feel that’s massively out of place, leaving newcomers to it with the feeling that it could just have been a dream, which just doesn’t feel right. However, there are still plenty of fittingly beautiful pieces of cinematography, like the treatment of the bespectacled billboard eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg in the Valley of Ashes between New York City and long Island.
The 2013 movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby is a sublime piece of work in general and while the Luhrmann treatment will rankle those that have read the book slightly the overall result is very effective.
The Great Gatsby (2013) movie review: 4/5