The Great Gatsby (12a)
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton & Tobey Maguire
Running Time: 142 min
A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor.
It’s the roaring 1920s in New York, where money is flowing like the illicit liquor from speak-easys and the name on everyone’s lips is ‘Gatsby’. Some say he is a war hero, some say he is a relation to Kaiser Wilhelm; all who attend his parties agree that he hosts the best, but who the man Gatsby is, no-one really knows.
Writer and stockbroker Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves into a quiet and very modest house next to a mansion. A mansion that sits right on the bay opposite a green light and whose owner is none other than Jay Gatsby (Leonardo diCaprio), an extremely wealthy and private individual whose parties are the stuff of legend.
As Nick develops a friendship with Gatsby, he slowly chips away at what drives the man and discovers that Gatsby is hiding more secrets than Nick ever thought possible. Secrets that will surely come out and have consequences not just for Gatsby, but for those he holds dearest to him.
The Great Gatsby, based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is literally an assault on of the audience’s senses. Director Baz Luhrmann has taken the classic story and literally cranked up the opulence to an unbelievable level. Though this is a period piece, with costumes and set dressings to match, Luhrmann has used his own style and flair to lift the atmosphere right of the pages on the book and plaster them onto the screen.
Whilst the script and dialogue remain fairly faithful to the book, it’s the colourful photography with blazing soundtrack that sets this film apart. Indeed it does seem a little surreal watching 1920s follies and free-loaders guzzling champagne to modern rap music and even a little jazzed up George Gershwin is thrown in for good measure.
The actors seem to blend in with the colourful scenery thanks to a period-esque script, indeed whilst most will be familiar with the story (and perhaps its ending), non-fans will marvel at the details and perhaps liberties taken with this period time piece.
Leonardo diCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan do a fairly decent job of bringing literary characters to life, however the narration from Tobey Maguire’s character I personally felt was just a little flat when compared to the original novel.
That said, the main theme of the movie may be misinterpreted by some audience members, especially during the closing minutes. You certainly feel the sense of wealth, opulence, grandeur and a time of “the more you drink, the merrier you will be”, but that isn’t really the core of the story. Whilst the Director has succeeded in bringing the more flamboyant aspects of the character on screen, this may be a little at the expense of the main character’s deeper motives and emotions.
The Great Gatsby is certainly in keeping with the style of Baz Luhrmann’s previous films, in vibrant colours, non-period music and a scale and scope that few others would dare to bring to the silver screen. In short, if you enjoyed his previous renditions of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, then this is a perfect evening’s entertainment. If, on the other hand, you prefer your literary classics to remain solely period based, then this probably isn’t the version for you.