The Great Gatsby (2013)

Gatsby's mansion on Long Island (as imagined by director Baz Luhrmann)
Gatsby’s mansion on Long Island (as imagined by director Baz Luhrmann)

Most critics say that The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a nearly un-filmable book.  You can’t translate the words (loved by many readers of all ages) into a typical movie.  Onscreen, Gatsby’s dialogue is stilted and comes off as fake.  (It’s supposed to be like that, as he’s playing a role he wasn’t born into.  Jay Gatz’s roots are very humble.)

Tom, Myrtle, & Nick party in NYC hotel
Tom, Myrtle, & Nick party in NYC hotel

Nick (Tobey Maguire), a bit younger and more naïve than the other character, is drawn into Gatsby’s world of glittering parties, beautiful/famous women, and freely flowing alcohol.  After WWI (“The Roaring 20s”), Nick wants to be a writer, but ends up taking a job on Wall Street (stockbroker).  He rents a little cottage beside Gatsby’s opulent mansion and wonders what’s going on inside.  Finally, he gets to meet Jay Gatsby, who has a strong/emotional connection to his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan).

Gatsby waits nervously for Daisy's arrival at tea.
Gatsby waits nervously for Daisy’s arrival at tea

As readers know, everything Gatsby has done has been to be worthy in the eyes of Daisy, who hails from one of the “old families” of Kentucky.  They met several years ago, when Gatsby’s roots were hidden under his soldier’s uniform (“a great equalizer”).  She’s now married to a former polo player from old money, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).  However, Tom is cheating on her with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), the wife of his mechanic.

Not even a box-office powerhouse like Leonardo DiCaprio can save this film!  It’s too much- too bright/colorful, noisy, and doesn’t really go anywhere.  “It looked like Disney Land- cartoonish,” one viewer commented after the screening.  Maguire does what he can with what he’s given.  Edgerton makes Tom a blowhard and jerk (as needed), but it’s pretty much a one-note performance.  Mulligan’s talents are wasted here; she has zero chemistry with DiCaprio.  For those who came to see Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan- he doesn’t have much to do, but looks cool in those period outfits.

Daisy sees Gatsby's house for the first time.
Daisy sees Gatsby’s house for the first time.

The director’s vision comes across (very obviously), but it’s style over substance.  The disjointed (modern) music may be the biggest flaw of all!  Laughs were elicited by the audience at some un-funny moments, I recall.  I was wondering: Where is this all going?  Some of my friends loved the book, so they may re-read it.  There are so many themes to explore in this little story, but I fear this film won’t inspire the younger generation to look into the book.  If you want to see Luhrmann’s best film, check out his debut work- Strictly Ballroom

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