Director Baz Luhrmann decides that he would like to take a stab at F Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic The Great Gatsby. Too bad it suffers from rather mundane performances from good actors, a score that seems out of place, and a total disregard for anything story wise.
If you have not read the novel, the story is about Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire) who is a writer in rehab recounting his times in West Egg and his friend Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Carraway lived next to Gatsby who was notorious for his giant parties that would bring all of New York City in the 1920s to his place to let loose. Carraway also becomes intertwined with Gatsby and his love affair with Carraway’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan).
Luhrmann’s distinct style is apparent throughout the film. The over the top colors and fabrics falling from every which way is what he does and while at times it fulfills that crazy lifestyle that Gatsby’s parties are supposed to have, it detracts from the story and becomes more of a display of eye candy rather than something useful. Not saying that the style did not work at times, but with the story struggling so much, it would of been nice for him to tone it down and allow for some development.
DiCaprio is good in the role of Jay Gatsby, almost a role that seemed perfect for him. He never really blows you away with his performances but is easily the most interesting person on screen. Maguire is solid but nothing spectacular as is Mulligan. Joel Edgerton plays Daisy’s husband, Tom Buchanon, very well and convincingly. Outside of DiCaprio, Edgerton and Jason Clarke as George Wilson are the other shining stars.
My biggest problem though with the film is its struggling story. Luhrmann spends the first two acts of the film trying to wow you with the eye popping visuals and the pounding score by Jay-Z and forgets to ever develop a relationship between anyone. Daisy and Gatsby seems rushed and almost Twilight-esque. We know that they are supposed to be together but never sure why and the reasoning is rushed and really underwritten.
The story seems disoriented also because of the musical choice. Jay-Z ran the score and made it feel like people in modern society dressing up like they were in the 20s and dancing to rap music. This loses the majesty of the 20s and the jazz that pulsated through the streets much like what the book emphasizes. While I am a chief advocator of keeping book and movie separated, the jazz is almost a character and the lack of it made the whole product seem wrong and unlike what was intended of it.
In the end, The Great Gatsby was a decent movie but nothing spectacular, much like the rest of Luhrmann’s work. While he has a clear talent for visuals, he seems to always lose the story in them which should be the chief proponent for a film. It left me unsatisfied and wanting more especially out of such a great cast.