Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Bazz Luhrmann, and Craig Pierce
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton
New York, 1922, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) has rented a small cottage in the novae riche area of West Egg, Long Island. His neighbor is the mysterious Mr. Gatsby. In Gatsby’s large manor house parties are thrown nightly and all are welcome, but no one has ever seen their host. Who he is, where he comes from, and how he made his money are all a mystery. Across the harbor is the pony old money enclave of East Egg, where the Buchanans live. Daisy (Carey Mulligan), the wife, is Nick’s cousin, while Tom (Joel Edgerton) is Nick’s old university friend.
Before Nick is begins his career as a bond broker he is invited to the Buchanan’s mansion. There he learns Daisy is not happy in marriage and Tom is having an affair. Niceties of “polite” Society are upheld, and any meaningful conversation is subdued by superficial chit-chat. But when that vapid conversation reveals the name of Gatsby, it triggers a reaction from Daisy: a memory, a look of regret.
Eventually Nick is invited to Gatsby’s. And there in the center of opulence and excess Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) finally shows himself. He quickly brings Nick into his world and more importantly into his plans. Quickly the fates of different individuals from different walks of life become dangerously intertwined. One man’s dream to remake the past conflict with the present with disastrous results.
The same could be said for this adaptation: a tale “full of sound and fury, signify nothing”–Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5).
The Great Gatsby is a hollow mess. The familiar story and characters are there, but you do not empathize with them. In the end all you are left with is a shrug. You never know why you should care.
The actors try, but there is a fundamental disconnect between the audience and the characters. Leonardo DiCaprio carries the role of Gatsby well. Much like Robert Redford before him, after you watch DiCaprio in this role you can picture no other current actor taking the mantle. DiCaprio’s true life friend, Tobey Maguire, is an excellent choice to play Nick Carraway. Their onscreen relationship left me with the distinct impression that their early friendship was very similar–the young spirited DiCaprio bringing the young shy Maguire into his world and out of the latters shell. Their relationship overshadows that of Gatsby and Daisy. Carey Mulligan as Daisy does not hold our attention. She comes across as a cypher, and in the end you wonder what all the fuss is about. She is overpowered both by DiCaprio and Joel Edgerton as Tom. Though Tom is easily the least sympathetic character in the film, you understand where he is coming from and his motivations.
The look of the film is cartoony, with too much reliance on poor CGI effects. During one of the car drive scenes in the city I half expected to see Tex Avery’s Zoot-Suited Wolf character to be standing in a corner. Luhrmann would have been better served sticking with the well designed & executed set designs than trying to “improve” them with visual enhancements. Even his normally solid musical numbers felt forced and his choice of music out-of-place.
Though the film is a faithful adaptation, something was lost in translation.
Grade = C-