Baz Luhrmann is back with his fifth film, this time with an adaptatation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, but does the adaptation live up to expectations?
Its summer 1922 and a young man named Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves next door to the mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby is known for his lavish parties and rumours ciculate about his past. Gatsby requests Nick to arrange a meeting with Nick’s cousin Daisy( Carey Mulligan), a lost love of Gatsby’s who is married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). However Gatsby’s attempt to recapture the past leads to tragedy.
Luhrmann has often been accused of style over substance, which I don’t agree with. However The Great Gatsby does at time seem more interested in the parties, the music and customes than the characters on screen. The soundtrack by Jay-Z is good but doesn’t blow me away like the ones for Moulin Rouge or Romeo and Juilet. And although the film looks pretty it’s not as mesmarising or memorable as it should be.
There is a good cast gathered together but they mostly come across as one note characters. Nick is such a passive character he might as well not be there half the time. However at least his bond with Gatsby is convincing, helped by the real life friendship between Maguire and DiCaprio. Tom is a good villian but does stray into a pantomime baddie. Carrey Mulligan is a great actress, and shined in An Education, Drive and in the classic Doctor Who episode Blink. Here she looks the part with her gorgeous gowns and hair, but the character is so frustrating (the same problem I have with the book). It’s hard to know what she really feels. Did she love Gatsby or is she just a coward? It’s hard to know why Gatsby’s been obsessed with her all these years.
Luckily the film has one ace up its sleeves, Gatsby himself. Leonardo DiCaprio lights up the screen whenever he appears (literally- in his first appearance fireworks go off behind him as he’s introduced to Nick and the audience-a great first appearance). DiCaprio is mesmorising whether he’s playing aloof and mysterious, a bumbling romantic or even wearing Gatsby’s iconic pink suit. Considering he plays a man whose been obsessing over a woman for five years (and brought a house to be near to her-potential stalker alert!) it’s a testimant to DiCaprio’s acting and the script that he is a sympathetic and engaging character. He is a man who tragically cannot let go of the past-leading to his downfall.
It’s one of the many themes of the film, which follows on from the book. Can you repeate the past? Is Gatsby a victim of Daisy’s cowardness? Is Gatsby right to expect so much from Daisy? Although the film itself is not a complete success it does prompt intresting discussions on love, class, money and the American dream.
Not up to the standard of Lurhmann’s red curtain trilogy but its worth seeing for DiCaprio’s outstanding performance.