Synopsis: Bajillionairre/war veteran/playboy Jay Gatsby seeks to rekindle his romance with dull, now married, socialite Daisy.
What can I say? I should probably begin by saying I’ve never read the book or seen any of the film adaptations of Gatsby so didn’t know what to expect from the story, but I’ve always enjoyed Luhrmann’s films so I was looking forward to this one. It takes a while to get going (it’s about half an hour before we see the title character) and during that time my eyeballs were assaulted by numerous shots and swooping camera angles that seemed designed purely to make the most of 3D. Note; I am not a fan of 3D.
It looks great, obviously. The costumes are beautiful, the sets are grand and the visual effects are, true to Luhrmann’s style, totally over the top. It’s lurid and gaudy and opulent and glitzy in an uber-old-school-Hollywood-glamour way (if old-school-Hollywood was a hooker wearing too much rouge). The visual flourishes are sometimes fun and engaging, at others distracting and annoying, but such is Luhrmann’s Marmite approach to directing.
Leo turns in a top-notch performance as Jay Gatsby which is just as well because Mulligan and Maguire are both as dull as dish-water. I don’t think it’s fair to criticise the film for this as it sounds, from speaking to those who’ve read the book, that these characters were always quite insipid. Maguire, old sport, is especially irritating as the narrator, always on the periphery and never really taking part in life. Again, I believe this is true of the source material too. Quite why someone as layered, mysterious and intelligent as Gatsby would need to rely on mousey old Nick (Maguire) to put his plan to woo Dreary Daisy into action I’m not sure, but the story is weaker for it, if you ask me. You didn’t ask? Oh well!
I should mention the soundtrack, as the use of hip-hop has come in for a lot of criticism from Fitzgerald fans. I’m not a hip-hop fan but this is what Luhrmann does, and I think it worked.
Final thoughts: there’s a lot to like about this film if you a) like Baz Luhrmann and or b) like The Great Gatsby, but there’s a lot to dislike too. It’s an enjoyable enough watch but it left me feeling empty, a tad disappointed and craving something more substantial, like when you eat a Chinese takeaway.
Score: 6.5 /10
Running time: 2 hrs 22 minutes
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire