The Great Gatsby

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Isla Fisher
On DVD and Blu-Ray November 11th, 2013

by Amanda Farley

There are certain novels that have always proven difficult to adapt for the big screen. The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann’s latest film, is an ambitious attempt to bring F.Scott. Fitzgerald’s masterpiece to life.

Set in the American jazz age, the film deals with love, wealth and the darker side of the American dream. It is a story about individual change, social politics and betrayal. Told through the eyes of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), it spans an eventful summer that sees him befriended by the dazzling and elusive Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the events that follow which lead to his disillusionment with the lifestyle of the New York elite. This adaption is faithful to the novel’s plot and dialogue, but it is also a very modern and sexy take on the original story.

Luhrmann is a master of the visual. He recreates the beautiful and vivid glamour of the 1920’s with a surprisingly modern twist. This film is a feast of colour, movement and style. Catherine Martin’s costumes are breathtaking. Scene after scene reveals more and more elaborate outfit choices and sets. Nowhere is this more obvious then when confronted with the party tableaux.  1920’s opulence is mixed with musical and cultural elements from the 21st century to create a film that feels very current.

However, although this film is undoubtedly visually pleasing, it lacks the artistic potency of the original work. The novel is a powerful piece of writing, it captivates and entrances the audience, drawing them into the decadence and decay of the Jazz era. It has at it’s heart a beauty, simplicity, and rawness that resonates through the decades. It is this very essence that Luhrmann’s adaption fails to capture. The world he creates is bright and dazzling, but it lacks depth. There is beauty and style, but no soul.

The story of Gatsby and Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) never really reaches its full potential. Feeling is sacrificed for style, and the end result is hollow and lacking in impact. Despite the high calibre cast, performances fail to inspire. Maguire offers us a lacklustre Nick, never quite pleasing as the easygoing and sometimes sarcastic narrator.  Mulligan’s Daisy lacks the emotional depth to move the narrative successfully forward.  However, Elizabeth Debicki gives a striking performance as Daisy’s friend, Jordan Baker. So much so that I was left wishing that her character had more screen time. The real star though has to be DiCaprio. His portrayal of Gatsby is heartfelt and it brings some much needed emotional weight to the otherwise flat scenes.

This film is certainly exciting and fast paced, if a little long. It lacks the nuance and subtlety that make The Great Gatsby truly great, but it is entertaining and worth watching for its cinematography and music alone.

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