The Great GatsbyIt’s 1922 and Wall Street has turned New York into a bustling haven for bond dealers and stockbrokers; gambling is rampant and the prohibition movement has lead to widespread alcoholism. In the uprising of flapper dresses and jazz, a man by the name of Jay Gatsby is introduced through the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and would become an American classic. Nearly a century later, director Baz Luhrmann is retelling this timeless tale with a twist of contemporary cinematic effects and a killer hip-hop induced soundtrack.

The Great GatsbyIt’s 1922 and Wall Street has turned New York into a bustling haven for bond dealers and stockbrokers; gambling is rampant and the prohibition movement has lead to widespread alcoholism. In the uprising of flapper dresses and jazz, a man by the name of Jay Gatsby is introduced through the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and would become an American classic. Nearly a century later, director Baz Luhrmann is retelling this timeless tale with a twist of contemporary cinematic effects and a killer hip-hop induced soundtrack.

Luhrmann, better known for his blend of theatrics with cinematic elements (see: Moulin Rouge) is not one to shy away from dizzying camera shots, flashy sets and costumes. In his take of The Great Gatsby, he has managed to emulate the dream-like state of the ‘20s that Fitzgerald captured through his description of New York’s ferocious streets, lavish Long Island mansions and the glitzy parties.

The story is narrated by an observant Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who has moved next door to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Carraway is captivated by his neighbor’s wealthy mystique and whose enormous parties managed to draw all of New York to West Egg. Carraway soon uncovers that Gatsby’s true intent with the parties is to capture the attention of Carraway’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), with whom he shares a lustful past.

As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that although Gatsby has entrapped himself in a fantasy life and romance, those surrounding him are also quite similarly disillusioned.

Luhrmann appropriates much of Fitzgerald’s texts into the screenplay, perhaps more notably with Carraway’s intro monologue that so perfectly summarizes the film.

However, the true spotlight falls upon Carey Mulligan.

Fitzgerald, in his novel, wrote to the effect that Daisy’s voice was comparable to the sound of money. In fact, Daisy’s character is very mythical; one will come to obsess imagining her to life, as she seems almost unattainable to the real world. And yet, here she has materialized so perfectly and sensibly when played by Mulligan. Mulligan is whimsical, naïve, vulnerable and completely irresistible as Daisy. She is the center of gravity in this film.

The female leads are all memorable: Isla Fisher is raunchy and sexy as a desperate Myrtle Wilson, and Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan baker is soft as Daisy’s friend and yet rigid as Carraway’s confidante.

This is not to entirely underwrite the male leads: Joel Edgerton (who plays Tom Buchanan, is convincing as a conniving infidel and DiCaprio is charming as ever as an emotionally tortured Gatsby. Maguire is naturally pensive which makes him trustworthy as the storyteller.

The film is both visually and audibly busy from start to end. Much of the story is blatantly told at face value, with little to be read between the lines, which many might see as an act of betrayal towards the story’s intent. However, Luhrmann’s flashy craft is a reminder that this film is an interpretation that the work that only Fitzgerald has managed to inspire.  

Rated PG-13; Running time: 143 Minutes




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