Running Time: 2 hours 22 minutes
Set amidst the decadence and excess of the early 1920s is the story of The Great Gatsby. Nick Carraway, played byTobey Maguire moves to West Egg, a neighborhood in Long Island and is instantly captivated by his enigmatic neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby charms Nick with his lavish and extraordinary parties and fantastic tales of adventure. All this is done so that Nick will arrange a meeting between his cousin Daisy and Gatsby. Nick soon realizes that Gatsby has created his fictitious persona as a way to establish himself as a worthy suitor of Daisy and to rekindle the lost love he once had with her. As Gatsby falls deeper in love, his world begins to crumble as he realizes his feelings are not shared by Daisy, and Nick helplessly watches as everything he trusts and believes in is destroyed.
Baz Luhrmann brings the classic American tale The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, to life in his visually stunning reinterpretation. The movie is a feast for the senses because of the use of clever and imaginative editing, inventive special effects, and a spectacular soundtrack. I was also pleasantly surprised that the 3D effects were worth the extra money. I found the 3D treatment added a heightened sense of emotion to the story.
In preparation for the movie, I decided to reread the book, having forgotten most of the story since my first reading of it in high school. The movie closely follows the book. However, excess, infedelity, and individuals with no sense of personal integrity are not characters I respond to. Surprisingly, given my general distaste of the story I enjoyed the movie. Luhrmann's deft hand and use of visuals and music add weight and interest to a story that is in all ways lacking.
There is something fatally enticing about unrequited love and the lengths to which someone will go to reestablish a past love. Leonardo DiCaprio manages to make Gatsby charming, mysterious and sympathetic. You feel his ardent desire to move heaven and earth so the he can erase the past and the gulf separating Daisy from him. Although, I have always hated Daisy's character, she is played with flighty realism by Carey Mulligan and I could see why Gatsby is drawn to her. Tobey Maguire manages to be the most normal of all the characters and spends most of the movie watching what happens, instead of taking action. His skillful acting gives Nick much more personality than the book manages to do. As a story The Great Gatsby is only a C-, but as a movie imagined by the wild mind of Luhrmann is something fascinating to behold so I give it a B.
Baz Luhrmann has directed a beautiful and stylish film that is a feast for the eyes, but in what is bound to be an unpopular opinion, I have to say that I just don’t think that The Great Gatsby is a very interesting story. For some reason that I don’t recall, I didn’t have to read this novel in high school so I went into the film with completely fresh eyes. Two hours and twenty three minutes later I found myself glad that it was over because I didn’t identify with any of the characters and I never invested emotionally in any of the relationships. In fact, the most compelling moments of the movie were between Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) and Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) and you only get a scant few of those.
The fact that I struggled to enjoy the film had nothing to do with the acting; which was superb across the board. It wasn’t the director’s fault because Baz Luhrmann made an artistic masterpiece with his signature sweeping camera shots that propel you through the streets of New York and through the bacchanalian madness of Gatsby’s parties. I am just not that interested in watching vain and selfish rich men fighting over a woman who, frankly doesn’t seem to be worth all the fuss, and ruining everyone else’s lives in the process. C+