WRITTEN BY: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce
DIRECTED BY: Baz Luhrmann
STARRING: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton
RATING: 4.5 stars
Tackling a story many consider to be the "great American novel" was never going to be easy. But surprisingly, it could not have been left in the more capable hands of Australian film-maker Baz Luhrmann. He certainly knows how to bring theatrical spectacle to the big screen. He makes the cinema a true artistic experience that is accessible to everyone. The Great Gatsby washes over you like the wild confetti-filled parties it depicts. It is beautiful, colourful and outrageous. It is also a lovely reminder that a film does not need superheroes or aliens to be a blockbuster.
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby is set during the roaring 1920's when everything good in life seemed to be in excess. Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves to New York in 1922 to learn about bond trading. He rents a house across the bay from his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her adulterous husband Tom (Joel Edgerton). But Nick is drawn to the mansion next door owned by mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) who throws the wildest parties in town for everyone including bootleggers, officers, socialites, governors and mobsters. But Gatsby is not what he seems. As Nick quickly discovers, no one really knows the true man behind the facade or his true motivations.
The more I think about The Great Gatsby, the more I love it. As a fan of the novel I can assure fellow fans that the film stays mostly true to the book, with only a few minor changes. It even maintains some of the poetic imagery and symbolism from the book. Indeed, The Great Gatsby is a twisted love story that men and women can enjoy. It is full of amazing mise en scene, cinematography and music. It is a feast for the eyes, ears and soul. Catherine Martin's production design and costumes are exquisite, the use of 3D is effective and rap music is brilliantly infused into the 1920's world. It shouldn't work, but it does.
Some might think the dazzle of feathers, flowers, balloons, fireworks and fountains detract from the heart of the story, but I don't think that is a fair analysis. The film balances both angles and is a beautiful piece of cinema. My only criticism of The Great Gatsby was that it was a little too long. It could have been trimmed 15 minutes with a bit of editing.
The cast is also impressive. DiCaprio never disappoints with his performances. His embodiment of Gatsby is powerful, as he is able to portray a man of influence, propriety, charm and mystery, while also expressing Gatsby's obsession and boyishness. Edgerton was equally commanding and has now fully blossomed into a great actor. He matches DiCaprio well and they have a particularly good scene together towards the end of the film. Maguire is really the protagonist of the film and he holds it all together well. Mulligan is alluring and emotional, while Isla Fisher has a small but pivotal role as Tom's mistress. Elizabeth Debicki is also good as Jordan the golfer, particularly considering her youth and inexperience. It was a shame her character was not as well explored as it was in the novel.
I really cannot gush enough about how much I loved The Great Gatsby. I cannot wait to see it again, Old Sport.