Genre: Drama, Romance
UK Release Date: 16th May 2013
Runtime: 142 minutes
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writer: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton
Synopsis: When an ambitious Yale man moves next door to a billionaire, he becomes enthralled by the man’s mysterious lifestyle.
F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby is considered one of the classic works of American literature. It has been adapted for the screen a number of times, but never by an auteur as visionary as Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet director Baz Luhrmann – the master of style over substance.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves into a modest house next door to the extravagant mansion of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). He eventually unravels the man’s enigma and discovers that he is connected to the beautiful Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan).
One of the main triumphs of The Great Gatsby as a novel is its degree of subtlety and nuance. Unfortunately, neither of those two words even appear in the dictionary belonging to Baz Luhrmann, who turns Fitzgerald’s masterpiece into a loud, shouty, glittering ball of cheese. Surprisingly though, it’s actually pretty good.
Leonardo DiCaprio shimmers in his portrayal of the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. He perfectly conveys the disconnect between Gatsby’s overt playboy persona and the fragile, lovesick child within him. Had The Great Gatsby got its planned awards season release, a Best Actor nomination would have been far from out of the question. Equally strong is Carey Mulligan as the wide-eyed, almost mythical Daisy, Joel Edgerton as her bullish husband and Jason Clarke as the increasingly insane George Wilson.
However, it’s clear from the very beginning that no-one is allowed to forget who the real star of The Great Gatsby is – the man in the director’s chair. There’s no doubt that Baz Luhrmann’s vision of this seminal book is completely unique, despite his fastidious faithfulness to the novel’s plot. From introducing Gatsby with a literal fireworks display to turning a tense drive home into a car chase straight out of the Fast & Furious franchise, Lurhmann is working entirely on his own terms. No shot is free of strange lighting choices, crash zooms, bonkers musical choices and just absolute insanity.
In certain cases, Luhrmann’s eye for the glamorous fills scenes with vibrancy, colour and life. In others, it empties them of any vigour. Later scenes, in which Luhrmann takes a step back, allow the actors to do their thing and create some of the best moments.
This should be a lesson to him, actually. With a few wiser choices, his version of The Great Gatsby could’ve been definitive. What he actually made was a noisy, messy trashfest. It was alright though, old sport.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.