Movie Review: "The Great Gatsby"
Rating: PG-13 (some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying, brief language)
Length: 142 minutes
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Stars: 4 out of 5
Once upon a time, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) was the love of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), but their romance did not last. Daisy moved on and married the loutish Tom (Joel Edgerton), while Gatsby cried over the fact that he couldn't compete with Tom's copious reserves of wealth. He made a few shady deals and became rich enough to move to tony West Egg, a wealthy Long Island suburb. Near his expansive mansion is a small house, which aspiring Wall Street raider Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) rents.
Nick just happens to be a cousin of Daisy, who lives with Tom across the water from Gatsby. She spends her days in utter boredom until she realizes that her lost love, Gatsby, is nearby. She begins attending his opulent, almost legendary parties and seems to lead Gatsby on in order to entertain herself while Tom cheats on her with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), the homely wife of a gas station attendant. When Myrtle begins to think that Tom is going to take her away from her humdrum life with her husband, George (Jason Clarke), he dismisses her. This underscores his cruelty and shows why Daisy needs the excitement of Gatsby in her life, even if she has no real intention of leaving Tom to be with him.
Nick begins to spend more time with Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby and soon realizes that if he were to strike it rich on Wall Street, this is the life he would have. On the surface, these people seem happy in their wealth and leisure, but once he delves deeper into their lives, he sees the seedier, selfish side of them. "The Great Gatsby" is the ultimate story of the American dream gone sour, in which status and money have largely replaced human decency and goodwill. Will this opulent but dangerous (and in one case, deadly) lifestyle still suck Nick in, or will he be able to walk away from West Egg with his sanity and humanity intact?
It has been said that "The Great Gatsby," although widely considered to be the best American novel ever written, could not be adapted for the screen or stage. A 1974 film starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow proved that the material could be made into a movie. Though it was a good adaptation, it lacked the panache that Luhrmann brings to his films. The 1974 film also stayed very faithful to the source material, whereas Luhrmann took a few artistic licenses with the book's plot in order to spice things up. As it turns out, "The Great Gatsby" can be adapted for the screen, it just needs a little help to make it viable. Luhrmann and his cast give the story the jolt it needs to make it exciting and fresh.
As anybody who has watched any of director Baz Luhrmann's films would expect, "The Great Gatsby" is a visually stunning film. Part of the credit goes to his wife, costumer Catherine Martin, who by now knows Luhrmann's visual habits like the back of her hand. Each and every piece of clothing the characters wear is painstakingly chosen to go with the set decoration, which is expertly appointed to look like something that would come from the era, but with a slight twist. Add in cinematographer Simon Duggan's dizzying array of camera shots and angles, and you get some of the best visuals of any movie in recent memory. It's still too early to tell if any of the fine actors will end up with any awards for their work on "The Great Gatsby," but the film will no doubt at least get nominated for set decoration and costumes, and most likely the music as well.
The performances from the actors are fantastic across the board, with Maguire nearly stealing the show as Nick, from whose point of view the film is shown. However, there is one extra character that isn't listed with the rest of the cast that might just be the true star of the film: the music. Luhrmann teamed up with music mogul Jay-Z to come up with a new take on the jazz that permeated the era in which the film is set. The result is an auditory assault of the best kind that gives a modern flavor to a 1920s story without taking it out of that setting. See the film for the visual spectacle, then be sure to buy copy of the soundtrack to relive the experience.