One of the finest novels of American literature gets the lavish treatment we expect from the director of Moulin Rouge! and Romeo and Juliet. Were it not for those party scenes at the millionaire’s mansion, The Great Gatsby would seem to be far down the list of possible projects for the hyper Luhrmann, but Gatsby did know how to throw a party.
The party scenes brim with flappers and champagne and fireworks, all stuff that Luhrmann knows how to pump up to maximum volume. He’s shrewdly arranged his movie around the golden-hued presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, who occupies his Jazz Age suits as though he’d waited to wear them all his life.
In some essential way, and despite what appears to be a sincere reverence for the book (in many ways the movie’s extremely faithful to the plot), Luhrmann is completely off-key in his delivery of this sad-edged saga: The quick cutting, the glossy digital backdrops, the heavy emphasis on Fitzgerald’s subtle imagery, all combine to throttle the material rather than animate it.
Some of the people on screen fare nicely, as Joel Edgerton gets the brutishness of upper-class Tom Buchanan, Elizabeth Debicki is a sly Jordan Baker, and Tobey Maguire makes sense as the observant narrator Nick Carraway. As Gatsby’s romantic ideal, the unattainable Daisy, Carey Mulligan appears misplaced, but one can hardly blame the actress for getting lost amidst the glitz.
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Year of Release: 2013
Character to watch: Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?