I didn’t read the book. (Although we all know films can’t quite compete with your imagination.) I saw the 1974 movie and couldn’t stand it. I saw this movie and realized that even with Baz Luhrmann’s stylistic visuals, and Jay-Z’s monopoly of the soundtrack, “The Great Gatsby” is really average.
The film is about...wait you didn’t read the book, the cliffnotes, or see any of the two prior films before this one? (There is a third film but it was made in 1926 and there are no existing prints.) Alright, there’s an illusive man named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has built himself up from nothing to “something”. He really loves a married woman named Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). He buys a house across the lake from Daisy and her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton) in a grand plan to rekindle his lost love. Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is the narrator and liaison between his cousin Daisy and new neighbor, Jay Gatsby.
With all the myths, rumors, and legends surrounding Gatsby, Nick can’t help but to want to get close to Gatsby. Gatsby throws wonderful, grandiose parties full of women, music, and booze. So when Nick receives a personal invitation from the legend, he feels special and is enamored himself. Gatsby eventually asks Nick to host a tea with his cousin Daisy so that they can meet. From there the film is a love triangle with familiar twists and turns from your favorite soap.
DiCaprio is the bright spot of the film. He plays the enigmatic Gatsby with charm. He’s able to flip back and forth between confidence and the lack thereof, and madly in love to plain mad with ease. Joel Edgerton does a great job as the pompous cheating husband. The climatic showdown between him and DiCaprio is unsettling and a dramatic joy to watch. I had a conversation with co-workers prior to seeing the film about why I thought Carey Mulligan was a bad choice for Daisy. Could her face really launch a thousand ships? I know/knew she is one of the better actresses of this generation, but it didn’t sit right with me. I was wrong. The girl next door warmth made it understandable why Gatsby would love her. As for her cousin, he may have been the wrong call in casting, giving Nick Carraway a dopey portrayal.
Luhrrman did a good job in keeping the dialogue moving, bringing the visuals of 1920‘s debauchery to screen, and an uncanny way of making beautiful things become scary with the flip of a musical note. Unfortunately, the movie as a whole has a slow start and a decent ending. It’s like a long train ride that when you finally get to your destination your more excited that it's over than the ok views you saw along the way.