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Movie Review: 'The Great Gatsby'

The Great Gatsby

Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Rated PG-13

Most of us have, whether it was in Jr. High, High School or beyond, read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  Then beyond that most of have seen at one of the few adaptations that have been made over the years;  all of them faithfully following Fitzgerald’s tale of love, greed and the pursuit of the American dream during the roaring 20’s.  So at this point what’s left to be said right?  Enter Baz Luhrmann,  a man who loves to give you an extravagant affair on film.  The decadence of the time and people that populate Fitzgerald’s book matched with Luhrmann seems tailor made for each other.   That turns out to be the case, aesthetically, but Luhrmann is also the wrong person to make The Great Gatsby.

Does that comment seem a little frustrating?  Try watching the movie, ladies and gentleman.  Sure, the movie, like ones in the past, doesn’t jump the fence and if you want a movie that follows story of Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Tom and Daisy Buchanan like you're reading the novel, then this movie is probably better than every other adaptation out there (thanks in large part to the acting).  But at this point, I think we need something more; we someone who is going to delve further into Fitzgerald’s world and his cautionary tale of garish lifestyles and false hope.   Luhrmann’s world is so beautiful on the outside, but completely empty on the inside.

The story of The Great Gatsby, just in case you’ve never read the book, is narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a Midwestern man and Yale graduate who, fresh into the Big Apple, settled into a world selling bonds while desiring to be a writer.  Nick has a cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), living in on Long Island with her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), a philandering man who comes from old money.  Nick lives across the bay in West Egg, right next to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious fellow who is known mostly by the lavish parties he throws.  As Jay and Nick get to know each other, Nick discovers that Jay knows Daisy and his reason for living across the bay from her is no coincidence.  When Nick reintroduces the two, Jay and Daisy start to rekindle their romance from 5 years past.  This obviously upsets Tom, despite the fact that he has a mistress on the side, Myrtle (Isla Fisher).  Jay’s mysterious past, his wealth, his relationship with Daisy, all start to come into question by TomTom, being a man who will not be beat by some rag tag new money goon, will stop at nothing to destroy Gatsby. 

As I stated before, The Great Gatsby follows Fitzgerald’s novel faithfully.  But even when doing so, Luhrmann still seems to be missing the point of the story.  He’s concern sits with the look of the film, which one must state, has been a criticism of his in the past.  His Gatsby felt like the story was secondary.  The crux of the story, the relationship between Daisy and Jay, doesn’t get the emotional punch it deserves.  The back stories of all the characters come across like you’re reading the Wikipedia page about the Great Gatsby.  We’ve been there done that.  It’s now time to dig deeper and Luhrmann, who I think has the capabilities to do so, lets his visuals get in the way.  But man, those visuals are something else.

I saw Gatsby in 3D, which I didn’t think would have such a huge impact, but Luhrmann takes full advantage of the medium.  His style and own garish ways fit the feel and look of the movie quite well.  And his style is quite entertaining, so Gatsby, in that respect, succeeds.  But it’s the acting by all involved that make his version the go to for any Gatsby interpretations (at least at this point). The 3 male leads:  Dicaprio, Maguire and Edgerton are all pitch perfect as Gatsby, Carraway and Tom Buchanan.  It’s a shame they weren’t in a movie that had a little bit more depth to it. 

You wont’ be bored by The Great Gatsby and some may find this adaptation to be perfect.  But its time to quit repeating the past and give the world a Great Gatsby that Fitzgerald would be super proud of.

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