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The Great Gatsby

2013 | 143 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

The Great Gatsby


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2 user reviews

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 10 May, 2013
 17 May, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (native)

Box office




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Screenshots from The Great Gatsby Blu-ray

The Great Gatsby Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 9, 2013

Director Baz Luhrmann is not a miracle man, but he’s successfully restored pluck to fatigued material with his unique brand of cinematic voodoo. He made Shakespeare dizzy with 1996’s “Romeo + Juliet,” sent turn of the century Paris to Mars in 2001’s “Moulin Rouge,” and restored romantic sweep to a majestic continent with 2008’s “Australia.” However, turning his laser focus to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby” somehow tangles his antennae, faced with material that doesn’t allow for the type of spunk Luhrmann has turned into a brand. Despite his best intentions to make this collection of mope and alienation feel like a celebration of a euphoric era and its force of personality, the helmer can’t inject feeling into a cold-blooded creation. It’s a gorgeous film; sadly, it’s not a silent one.

Arriving in West Egg, New York to conquer Wall Street in the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) rents a home next to a mansion owned by the enigmatic Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), growing intrigued with his nightly routine of blow-out parties attended by hundreds. Eventually befriending Gatsby, Nick is pulled into the man’s luxurious lifestyle, picking up a drinking habit while uncovering his neighbor’s motivation for excess: Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). Nick’s second cousin and Gatsby’s longtime object of desire, Daisy lives across the bay with brutish husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), unaware of her former love’s monetary reinvention, acquired via shady dealings with gangster Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan). Determined to woo Daisy once again, Gatsby embarks on a secret affair with the overwhelmed young woman, while Tom sorts out his own infidelity with a Valley of Ashes resident, Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), wife to sickly gas station attendant George (Jason Clarke).

“The Great Gatsby” has acquired legendary status in influential circles, with Fitzgerald’s writing made a staple of high school literature classes, securing its continued relevance. However, the material hasn’t made a successful leap to the big screen, perhaps most notably striking out with a turgid 1974 effort starring Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy. Attempting to act as a creative defibrillator, Luhrmann imagines more of a wild ride for his take on the story, spending gobs of money to shellac the feature in style, color, expanse, and 3D, calling on an unusual format (hey, where did all the robots, murderers, and superheroes go?) for such a stately picture. Admittedly, “The Great Gatsby” does hit a few delirious highs with the party sequences, which shimmer spastically in a manner Luhrmann is known for. However, the singular drive to create a whirlpool of decadence in the glittery wonderland of Gatsby’s spacious mansion makes up only a few drooly bites of the movie. Alas, a director known for his inability to apply cinematic brakes when necessary has decided to slow his roll with Fitzgerald’s distinguished story of obsession; a cruel twist of fate, considering how badly the film needs Luhrmann’s voltage.

Perhaps there’s no need for a “Great Gatsby” movie, as much of the story is internalized, making the broad pantomime of emotions displayed here feel overcooked, sensing Luhrmann’s labor to reposition the glacial tragedy as one of immediacy, where tempers and passions boil instantly. The heightened performances are adequate (the cast is engaged, but it’s hardly a career highlight for anyone), yet the characters remain distant as ever, with Daisy a particular concern, sustaining indecision with her husband and Gatsby to a point where it’s honestly surprisingly to find two handsome men fighting over this walking coat rack of a woman. Mulligan moans as ordered, but Daisy has no personality, no tangible hook of attraction that provides a motivation for the events of the feature. She’s a complete blank, and despite her eventual graduation into the lead role, the screenplay doesn’t locate her desirability or her heartsick stance with Gatsby and his puppy-dog determination to cozy up to the one that got away.

The relationships are soggy, drawn out to exhaustion as Luhrmann stretches the picture to a troubling 145-minute-long run time, grinding tepid interactions into dust. There’s also a total non-character in Myrtle, but her convenient importance (pulled out of the blue) to the story is the least of the film’s problems in the protracted final act. While “The Great Gatsby” fizzles as drama, its visual might is extraordinary. Cinematography by Simon Duggan is a carousel of accelerated colors and opulent lighting, blinding the viewers with displays of silver and gold. Costumes by Luhrmann’s longtime collaborator (and wife) Catherine Martin provide profound textures of style, making the feature work as more of a fashion show than the lingering mental breakdown it’s intending to be. There are striking elements of beauty everywhere here, and it’s far more compelling to study than the plot.

Music also plays a critical role in “The Great Gatsby,” with Luhrmann once again using anachronism to stamp a modern feel to a period picture. Most of the cuts are too static to take note of, while others register on the ridiculous side. I’m all for a little sonic insanity, but when Gatsby and Nick pull up to a neighboring car in traffic and the driver is blaring “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” by Jay-Z, it strangles the moment. Even by Luhrmann standards, rap doesn’t quite blend into the Jazz Age mood of the effort.

The screenplay doesn’t stray far from Fitzgerald’s themes, clinging to the significance of the Buchanans’ green signal light, while placing newfound emphasis on ocular symbolism as a presence of God in the minds of the mad. “The Great Gatsby” remains intact, withstanding Luhrmann’s gale force pomp to tell the same old story of obsession and identity, and while the results contain the occasional orgy of spectacle nearly worth the price of admission to view, dramatic lethargy eventually paralyzes the picture, and no amount of pouting or preening can snap the movie out of its slumber.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki
Director: Baz Luhrmann

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The Great Gatsby 603 Oct 21, 2013

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