Australia | USA 2013
Starts May 16, 2013
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Writing credits: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce (screenplay), F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Amitabh Bachchan, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher
Length: 142 minutes
Australian Baz Luhrmann’s (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet) distinct directorial style permeates this newest film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, giving it a techno-glitzy facelift. It captivates and entertains, notwithstanding some scenes border on kitsch, however the message is not lost in the telling. Nick Carraway (Maguire) lands in New York City in 1922 during the heady Roaring Twenties era—unprecedented prosperity, jazz music, bootleg speakeasies, and nefarious behavior.
He rents a house on Long Island across the bay from cousin Daisy (Mulligan) and her filthy rich, hedonistic husband Tom Buchanan (Edgerton), and next-door to a young, mysterious millionaire. Jay Gatsby’s (DiCaprio) aura—opulent parties, solitary demeanor, and surreptitious wealth—fuels gossip. When finally they meet, Gatsby overwhelms Nick. Easily succumbing to the obsessively riotous lifestyle, Nick learns about Gatsby and Daisy’s secret past, and is instrumental in arranging for them to meet, with positive albeit tenuous results. Soon enough though, Gatsby’s mindless intensity charts a route for tragedy. Nick’s eventual disgust excludes Gatsby, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together”.
DiCaprio, master of subtlety, commands the Gatsby—“old sport”—persona, as if Fitzgerald wrote it for him. Edgerton is a compelling scoundrel, and Mulligan’s Daisy is demure yet self-absorbed. Only Maguire does not externalize the strength his character needs, to navigate the intricacies involved in the characters’ entanglements. With a faithful adaptation, a good music score, costume designs that take one’s breathe away, and shots reminiscent of fine art masterpieces, the producers should have nixed the 3D effect for purer visual gratification. Fitzgerald’s message may be 88-years old, yet is just as relevant today: Moral courage and money seldom mix. ()
I really enjoyed Gatsby. The time flew for me and would never have guessed being in the cinema over two and a half hours! The film had the same feel of a fantasy that I felt watching Moulin Rouge!; like going to Disneyworld or the Cirque du Soleil. It really showed the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, in a more over-the-top, but visually exciting way.
This includes repeated visual references to musicians (Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker), and artworks such as when Gatsby often stood with his back to us, at the end of his pier looking at Daisy's house, reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrick's famous painting, Wanderer above the Sea Fog where the lone figure in a similar position watches the dangerous icebergs. Despite the beauty of the scene, with this comparison is director Luhrmann predicting a tragedy?
Daisy's reluctance to go with Gatsby, and her inability to respond more honestly about the accident, emphasizes the frivolity of her character. What a tragedy.