For a legion of schoolgirls, and I'll include myself in this, who fell half in love with Leonardo DiCaprio almost two decades ago as he charmed Juliet, there's still something of the Romeo about him in his latest film, The Great Gatsby.
As the titular Gatsby, the boyish
smiles and bright blue eyes really work, and lend themselves to the character's hopeful yet delusional air.
A riot of colour and sound, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby tries to put the great into every moment.
The subtlety of F Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel is missing
from the film, but this is a Luhrmann production after all - spectacle,
not subtlety, is half the point. Sounds and colours and zooming camera
shots smack you in the face at every turn, at times drawing attention
away from the characters.
It’s the 1920s and Nick Carraway (Tobey
Maguire) moves to a small house in West Egg, opposite his cousin Daisy’s
(Carey Mulligan). Next door to Nick lives Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), renowned across New York for being a complete mystery and for
his huge parties.
As Daisy struggles through her marriage with the
womanising, cruel Tom (Joel Edgarton), Gatsby asks Nick to set up a
meeting with Daisy, the only woman he’s ever loved.
raucous Gatsby parties to the speedy driving scenes to the moment Gatsby
and Daisy are reunited in a room full of flowers, everything pops off
the screen, especially in 3D.
saturation of colour and sound, and also the lack of colour and music in the valley of ashes, lends a sense of doom that pervades the
film from the moment we see New York. Even as thousands of party-goers
are watching fabulous fireworks across the bay in front of Gatsby's
house, there's something brewing under the surface, signified by the
flashing green light in front of Daisy's house that Gatsby has spent
But it’s the quieter moments that
have more impact, especially after the constant cacophony of fireworks
and music (the Jay-Z produced soundtrack actually works in this
adaptation). Daisy and Gatsby slow dancing in the foyer, Gatsby’s nerves
before seeing Daisy again for the first time, Nick’s quiet
contemplation of who Gatsby is - they work better than all the loud
moments put together, largely because DiCaprio and Mulligan are good in
their roles as the hopeful, charming yet slightly delusional Gatsby and
the foolish, selfish Daisy. In quieter moments, you can almost forget
the sense of doom that pervades the whole film.
quieter moments are far too few, and those subtleties are missing from other characters. I know that Tom is bad because he looks bad, and the sneer he wears on his face tells me he's bad. I know his mistress, Myrtle, is kind of stupid yet much more worldly than Daisy because Isla Fisher imbues her voice with a really, really thick Noo Yawk accent.
The most deeply felt relationship
in the film, as it is in the book, is not between Daisy and Gatsby, but
between Nick and Gatsby. Maguire’s tone, a sort of rumbling that
conveys the admiration, and indeed, love, Nick feels for Gatsby better
than the looks on his face do throughout the film.
Beyond the smart clothes of the Jazz Age, Luhrmann’s The
Great Gatsby is not an elegant film, it’s in-your-face and lacks the
mystery of the novel, but it’s a 21st century version of a great
American tale - short on depth, big on image - for a celebrity loving
culture. After all, was there a bigger celebrity than Gatsby?