There’s been a lot of buildup for the latest version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic. The trailers were released more than a year ago, making Baz Luhrmann’s spectacle a source of endless speculation. Would Prada really be designing Daisy’s dresses? Would Leo DiCaprio trump Robert Redford in the role of Jay Gatsby? Would the riot of glitz and glamour undermine the refinement of Fitzgerald’s storytelling? In short, the answers are yes, yes and yes – which makes it a great film.
It is a super stylish and visually spectacular affair. And Luhrmann certainly does what he does best in dazzling audiences with flamboyant sets and fast-moving camera work. The film is decadent, dramatic and dripping with Tiffany diamonds – so much so that you sometimes lose the subtler elements of the script.
Still, the stellar cast does its best to provide some substance to all that style. DiCaprio flexes his acting muscles more than the rest but there are moments when you wish the director would slow things down and give him and co-star Carey Mulligan time to explore the emotion of the story.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, the story primarily concerns the mysterious millionaire Gatsby and his love for the rich, beautiful and married socialite Daisy Buchanan (played by Mulligan), as told by would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire).
Drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, Carraway slowly unravels a less than flattering portrait of the Jazz Age with its excess, deceit and morally dubious behaviour.
Of course, there are flaws in Luhrmann’s adaptation. There are a couple of creative embellishments that fans of the cult book will hate, and tragic elements of the love story are somewhat watered down by all the glitz. But not being an overly sentimental type, I quite liked that. All in all, this is a must-see film that more than lives up to Hollywood’s hype.
Review by Penny Fray