The Great Gatsby– Movie Review
By the end of Baz Luhrmann‘s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I was genuinely rooting for Daisy and Jay. They seemed to be truly in love; Gatsby’s opulent lifestyle was just a means to the end of that love. But that may be a problem. This Gatsby is energetic, entertaining, and extremely well-acted, but glosses over much of Fitzgerald’s original critique of greed and shallowness, crafting more of a straight up love story.
If you’ve made it through high school, you probably know the story already. Nick (Tobey Maguire) moves to New York to make his fortune. His inconceivably wealthy and mysterious neighbor Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) throws huge parties. It turns out that years earlier, Gatsby had fallen in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who is now married to Tom (Joel Edgerton) and lives right across the harbor. Gatsby tries to win her back, as his true identity comes to light; it doesn’t go smoothly.
As entertaining as the film is, there were some features that distracted from the fine storytelling. The decision to have Nick Carraway narrate from a mental rest home is a major misstep, that unfortunately affects much of the film. Perhaps it was an attempt to emphasize the narrator’s unreliability, but it just doesn’t work. The cuts to Nick back in the institution, and the onscreen superimposition of text from the book, are distracting and gimmicky, and the movie understandably hit its stride when we saw less of this Future Nick.
Similarly, Luhrmann gets carried away with his CGI effects, especially early in the film. Daisy’s first appearance is an eye-rolling display of curtains billowing; again, maybe it was an impressionistic display of Nick’s perspective, but it was just too much. (Gatsby’s first appearance, on the other hand, was hilariously over-the-top, befitting the character.)
As the film moves away from partying, it is taken over by strong performances; surprisingly, much of the film is driven not by special effects, but by these small, intimate moments. DiCaprio brilliantly shows the cracks beneath Gatsby’s cool surface. He is humanizing and engaging as a suave, carefully guarded millionaire going completely bonkers over a girl.
Providing the perfect counterpoint is Edgerton as Tom. I could barely even have imagined such a tough but sympathetic performance for this classic villain, who by the end appears to be genuinely torn by his life falling apart around him.
Did you see The Great Gatsby? What did you think?