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1) The Globe and Mail

But first, before the glowing review, a little movie history. When The Great
Gatsby last ventured onto the large screen, in 1974 with a woefully miscast
Robert Redford and Mia Farrow squeaking in a voice like loose change, the
adaptation laid an Egg as big as East and West combined. In fact, the film was
so bad that it immediately raised two possible questions about the Scott
Fitzgerald classic: (1) haWas it not really a classic after all and didnt deserve
its iconic rep?; or (2) Was the novel just too intrinsically literary and delicate
to survive any transplant from its rightful home on the page?

Cut to the present when, in the lead-up to director Baz Luhrmanns muchhyped foray into the field, a spate of keen revisionists, sacred-cow-tippers all,
have emerged to answer the first question with a resounding yes, denouncing
the book (often with more eagerness than proof) as overwritten, oversymbolic
and vastly overrated. Which brings us, finally, to Luhrmanns film and to a
delicious irony: Its a terrific adaptation that succeeds not only as a work of
cinema but also, wonderfully, as proof of the novels greatness. In short, the
picture rebukes the revisionists even while entertaining them. How?
For starters, Luhrmann and his co-screenwriter Craig Pearce are astute
enough to know that Gatsby is much less an exercise in realism than a lyrical
tone poem. In its style and its theme, artifice lies at the very heart of the
book, and the director celebrated for his Red Curtain Trilogy (Strictly
Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge) is no slouch at artifice. So right
from the initial travelling shot, through an art-deco frame to that green light
at the docks flickering end, the movie is unabashedly stylized and theatrical.
His use of the 3-D camera, common now in action blockbusters but still rare in
a drama, reinforces the artful point while also underscoring the scripts first
surprise, and its only significant departure from the source material.
Prepare to see an aged Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) in a remote
sanitarium, diagnosed as a depressed alcoholic (yes, Fitzgeralds own fate).
There, as winter rages outside an encircling window, the 3-D effects seem to
have him ensconced within a giant snow globe, setting down on paper his
account of that faraway summer in the Roaring Twenties. Of course, in the
novel and here too, Nick is our narrator, prone to his occasionally purple
rhetoric. But that imposed conceit, the image of a talented depressive writing
from inside the bauble of his imagination, seems to validate his inflated prose
and, better yet, lets us re-appreciate its inherent poetry.
Then, from the moment the narrative flashes back to the principal action, to
Gatsbys impossible dream on the shores of Long Island and in the maelstrom
of Manhattan, several happy conclusions are quickly apparent. The casting is
note-perfect Carey Mulligans sad-eyed take on the narcissistic Daisy, Joel
Edgertons aggressively physical run at her philandering husband Tom,
Elizabeth Debicki as cool and careless Jordan Baker. More important, the
movie pulses with the vibrant, dissolute energy of the era. Youd expect
Luhrmann to give good spectacle, although the trailers worrisomely suggest
he may have gone over the top. Not the case.
Instead, the succession of costumed party sequences in the flat of Toms
mistress, in the restaurant with the scheming Meyer Wolfsheim, culminating

in the kaleidoscope carnival at Gatsbys absurdly opulent mansion play


out to a drunken, dizzying beat thats simultaneously invigorating and
enervating, leaving us, much like Nick, enchanted and repelled by the
inexhaustible variety of Luhrmannesque life. And his trademark use of a
contemporary soundtrack (Jay Z, Lana Del Rey, Beyonc, Andr 3000) builds
an inviting bridge between two confused and confusing Ages, yesterdays Jazz
and todays Digital.
On to Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. Its a tough gig, trying to pump flesh
and blood into a character whos essentially a platonic conception of himself.
But DiCaprio, unlike Redford, manages to convey the yearning innocence
without sacrificing the palpable menace, especially during the pivotal
confrontation scene suspicious Tom, tortured Daisy, besotted Gatsby,
onlooking Nick and Jordan in the steaming heat at the Plaza Hotel. There,
Luhrmann transforms a dramatic set-piece into a mini-play, where the
performances are nuanced and the dialogue crackles. Indeed, the dialogue
throughout rings surprisingly true, because the script has the good sense to
lift only the most realistic bits from Fitzgerald, to augment where necessary
with its own inventions, and, at judicious intervals, to layer in Nicks
melodically elevating voiceover.
The climactic plot twists, which strain on the page, definitely shouldnt work
on the screen, yet Luhrmann survives them by turning death itself into a
stylized act, just the final pas de deux in a thematic ballet. In the end, as
those famous last words literally dance across the screen, the verdict is clear:
This is a great adaptation that falls just shy of being a great film.
The ineffable, lyrical magic of the novel, the potion that its admirers drink in
deeply and its detractors gag on, goes missing here, perhaps inevitably. But
even that absence feels generous, pointing to and justifying the classics
status. Baz Luhrmanns The Great Gatsby is a fun and entertaining and vital
and brave reminder of what the book is and the movie, for all its many
charms, is not profoundly important.

2) Tampa Bay Times


The '20s roar until they're hoarse in Baz Luhrmann's splashy, slap-dashy
adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a movie to divide
moviegoers into camps of swooners and groaners, and occasionally make them
switch sides.
At times wildsly propulsive and stodgily inert at others, Luhrmann's version of
the classic novel is everything both his admirers and critics expect and more, for
better and worse. It is aggressively bold, taking the excesses and conspicuous
consumptions of Fitzgerald's characters to their illogical ends. If a scene calls for
sparks, Lurhmann provides fireworks; if drama demands depth, he presents it in
3-D.
As a stylist, no one surpasses this Aussie auteur for audacity; he never met an
anachronism he didn't like, including a Spotify soundtrack (Jay-Z, Florence + the
Machine) for an antenna radio era. As an emotionalist, however, Luhrmann

requires the grand delusions of lovesick fools Romeo, a Parisian poet in Moulin
Rouge or Jay Gatsby to express the heart beneath the pulse. Nothing subtle,
plenty gained.
Certainly nothing is subtle about Jay Gatsby, not his lavish reality or the mystique
built around him by gossips in a tony Long Island community in 1922. His
mansion is the scene of weekly bacchanals where no one needs invitations for
everyone in high society to attend. Gatsby is a phantom at his own affairs,
waiting for the one guest to arrive for whom everything has been planned: Daisy
Buchanan, a former lover now married though Gatsby hopes not for long.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Gatsby, and the role doesn't always fit as well as his
suits. He gets a movie star entrance to die for, a killer tux and smile backed by
fireworks and Gershwin. DiCaprio's confidence makes even Gatsby's upper crust
accent and verbal tic of calling everyone "old sport" feel charming. Yet when
Gatsby's confidence is shaken, so is DiCaprio's performance; the wrong
insecurity creeps in, of trying too hard to move an audience. But he is far more
effective than Robert Redford in the role 39 years ago.
At the same time, Carey Mulligan is the Daisy that Fitzgerald fans waited through
other adaptations to see, willing to be as self-centered and undeserving of
Gatsby's obsession as the character demands. Mulligan's voice is suitably "full of
money" but not like Mia Farrow's sing-song parody of flapper-speak in 1974. This
Daisy is a gold digger; no matter how rich she is it's never enough, which is the
immoral to Fitzgerald's story.
The weakest link among performances as it typically is with Gatsby
adaptations is Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway, saddled as he is with snobbish
explanations of motivations and back stories. The script devises an excuse for
Nick's narration that Fitzgerald didn't, couched in therapy sessions in a
sanitarium. The character still delivers some of Fitzgerald's best lines, but
Maguire in the movie is, as Nick describes himself, "within and without,
simultaneously."
When the beat slows, so do Luhrmann's movies, and that's about 45 minutes
before The Great Gatsbyends. Luhrmann and co-writer Craig Pearce are
remarkably faithful to the book but should also be impudent enough to rewrite
parts of this Great American Novel, especially when the love triangle tightens
inside a Manhattan hotel room, strangling Luhrmann's knack for making the
ordinary interesting. One final, wild night on the town, stretching the
confrontation over more drinks and frenetic dancing, might preserve momentum.
Yet as a purely sensory experience at the movies you're hard-pressed to find
anything more dazzling than the first 90 minutes of The Great Gatsby, when
Luhrmann's riotous amusements make anything possible. Musical eras overlap
like Nick's superimposed handwriting, smash zooms and silky dissolves force offkilter perspectives, colors are garish and even 3-D can't contain the overflow of
energy from the screen. That's when this Gatsby is truly great, which shouldn't
be forgotten after it turns ordinary.

3) Entertainment Times
The Great Gatsby. The title raises two immediate questions, one of which is
easily answered. Why isGatsby great? Because F. Scott Fitzgeralds 1925
novel embraces all the urgencies of the decade he dubbed the Jazz Age: the
fast cars and easy money, the plentiful booze (Prohibition made liquor
cheaper) and available sex, the nexus of big business on Wall Street and in
the underworld, all appraised in luscious prose.
Selling only 20,000 copies in its first years of publication (Fitzgeralds first two
novels, The Far Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, each sold
about 50,000), Gatsby now moves that many copies every month. The book
stays in print, and in fashion, because it addresses, as scholar Matthew
Bruccoli noted in the 2000 BBC documentary The Great Gatsby: Midnight in
Manhattan, the ways in which the American dream has rewarded its
believers and betrayed its believers. Eighty-eight years after its
publication, Gatsby remains as modern, youthful and shimmering as the
creatures in it.
A second, thornier question: Why is Gatsby great? Jay Gatsby, a mysterious
figure in Manhattan and Long Island lore, attracts thousands of revelers to his
sensational parties either because the guests dont know the source of his
wealth or because they do, and that knowledge gives them the thrill of
vicarious outlawry. Born James Gatz (gat was 20s slang for a gangsters
pistol) to a Midwestern family of no particular means, he reinvents himself as
a bootlegger with a dandys suave manners. He accumulated all this swag
and notoriety in hopes of winning back Daisy Fay, the girl he left behind in
Louisville, and who is now married to the aristocratic brute Tom Buchanan.
Nick Carraway, Daisys second cousin and the books narrator, sees greatness
in Gatsbys abounding hope. But to Tom, and perhaps to Daisy, Gatsbys new
money is tainted, and so is he.
Any movie of Fitzgeralds novel has to take Nicks view: that Gatsby is the
noble man and Tom the thug; that Gatsbys ambition to reclaim Daisy is not
new money chasing old but rather a romantic, chivalric quest; and that the
prize may not be worth the effort. Hollywood is well suited to dramatize these
issues. It spends vast sums on the veneer of class, swank, luxe. It believes in
the rogue warrior as hero, and the beautiful rich girl as a slave who needs
saving from her bondage to the evil prince. It loves love. It is Gatsby.

The novel has inspired three big films, starring Warner Baxter in 1926, Alan
Ladd in 1949 and Robert Redford in 1974, none of which were thought to
have located the books seductive, elusive heart. (A special frustration of the
1949 version: Tyrone Power was originally to have played Gatsby; and Gene
Tierney, Daisy stars whose allure matched their characters.) Because the
notion of Hollywood has spread far beyond its Los Angeles borders, it is fitting
that the latest adaptation should be made in Australia by Baz Luhrmann,
whose riotous esteem for old movies informed his Romeo + Juliet and Moulin
Rouge! Those two blood-red valentines to love and death, bling and zing,
created their own gaudy grandeur, as did Luhrmanns stage transformation
of La Bohme, which reached Broadway in 2002.
Having plundered Shakespeare and Puccini for tales of fateful romance, the
director has reunited with his Romeo + Juliet star Leonardo DiCaprio (21 then,
38 now) for a go at Gatsby. He chose Tobey Maguire as Nick, Carey Mulligan
as Daisy and Joel Edgerton as Tom. All are wise choices, but casting was the
easy part. Luhrmanns main challenge was either to find a visual equivalent
for Fitzgeralds elegant prose the open secret of the books staying power
or to bend the material to his own exotic strengths. He tries it both ways,
with varying degrees of success.
The novels Nick has retreated to his own Midwestern home after his New York
interlude to consider what made Gatsby great. In the movie, Nick has taken
residence in a sanitarium, where he spills out the story to a Dr. Perkins (Jack
Thompson, whose character is named for Fitzgeralds editor Maxwell Perkins)
and begins putting his thoughts on paper a memoir that will become The
Great Gatsby.
For the films first half-hour, Gatsby is known only through his parties and the
outlandish stories that have turned his biography into instant urban legend.
This early section shows Luhrmann rampant. Phones literally jiggle when they
ring; passages from the novel are scrawled across the 3-D screen, like fevered
entries in a schoolgirls diary. The proletarian night town where Toms mistress
Myrtle (Isla Fisher) lives with her mechanic husband George (Jason Clarke) is
spiffed up with a black dude blowing sax on a fire escape across from the
garage. The camera of cinematographer Simon Duggan seems to think it
cant simply capture an image; it must wrestle it unconscious to the ground. It
views a character from a ceiling perch or rushes breathlessly up to his face.
Gatsbys parties are Ziegfeld Follies raised to orgasmic pitch. Hundreds of
swells, flappers and 20s celebrities (Gilda Gray, Josephine Baker, Cab
Calloway) dance madly to purposefully anachronistic songs by Jay Z and

Beyonc, as the night sky erupts into fireworks and a blizzard of confetti. This
is not so much the Jazz Age, or even the Pizzazz Age, as the Razzle-Dazzle
Baz Age. The precision and economy of Fitzgeralds style (the book runs a
spare 48,000 words) get translated into the famous Luhrmann flair, expressed
in art-direction adjectives and visual exclamation points.
In a way, this excess of opulence suits the setting. From Wall Street to the
Long Island suburb of West Egg, where the mansion Gatsby owns abuts Nicks
more modest rental, to the old-money East Egg across the bay, Fitzgeralds
New Yorkers think too much is never enough. So more drink, gamier sex,
posher clothes. (One scene from the novel has Daisy literally sobbing over the
silk shirts Gatsby tosses her way.) To Nick and Gatsby country-mice
renegades from a part of the country still cosseted by 19th-century scruples
the big city is a Midass shiny Sodom. Gatsby, in novel or film form, shows
a young mans instant attraction to a town radiant with promise and
threat. Thats one thing the movies have always been able to do: put the
money on the screen.
Gatsby, when he finally materializes, is money incarnate: a true golden boy,
with a tan that George Hamilton or John Boehner would kill for. A nicer
Howard Hughes (whom DiCaprio played in The Aviator), he does something
that this serious actor, who often seems to flee from his charm, hasnt tried in
ages: smile. Gatsby claims to be from old money, to have studied at Oxford
and dabbled in painting, like the best class of Americas postwar emigres in
Europe. He calls Nick Old Sport, in the Mid-Atlantic accent used by
Broadway stars of the time. Nick can see through Gatsbys pretense, but he
warms to the native gentility, the dogged hopefulness behind the affected
airs and dirty business deals. If the story is about Gatsbys love for Daisy, it is
even more about Nicks love for Gatsby. The narrator has fallen for his new
friends star quality.
With star quality goes car quality. The 20s was the first decade to make the
automobile an essential embellishment to modern life, and many folks
imagined they had a professional racers agility. (In 1925, a few months after
the book was published, Pete DePaolo was the first driver to break an average
speed of 100 mph at the Indy 500.) Gatsby in his yellow convertible, and
Daisy and Tom, are carefree maniacs on the road, scattering unwary
pedestrians and other motorists, who are the merest traffic cones to the rich
and newly rich. One of these little people will stray into their careering path,
leading to the novels single spasm of carnage (her left breast was swinging
loose like a flap) that even Luhrmann cannot bear to put in his movie.
Another Fitzgerald message: speed kills.

When Gatsby the man seizes control from Gatsby the rumor, Luhrmann slows
down, content to play out his and co-screenwriter Craig Pearces summary of
the story. Its people talking in rooms gorgeously appointed rooms, filled
with smartly dressed folks. (Catherine Martin, Luhrmanns wife, was in charge
of costumes and production design.) Hearts and flowers, mountains of
flowers, eventually cede to heartbreak, in the grand Luhrmann tradition, and
the actors emote up a summer storm. Maguires otherworldly coolness suits
the observer drawn into a story he might prefer only to watch. DiCaprio is
persuasive as the little boy lost impersonating a tough guy, and Mulligan finds
ways to express Daisys magnetism and weakness.
Yet the emotions stirred here are not nearly so volcanic as those touched by
DiCaprio and Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet, or by Ewan McGregor and Nicole
Kidman in Moulin Rouge! The reason might be that, this time, only one of the
parties can imagine dying for love. But its also because Daisy understands
that her feeling for Gatsby could be as fictional as the imaginary ideal he has
tried to embody.
When Nick says, You cant repeat the past, Gatsby replies, Of course you
can. Nick is right. The man with a film stars charisma has fooled himself into
thinking that life is a movie, always reshootable, and that his second chance
with Daisy will be a more glorious Take Two. Thats why he occupies his West
Egg castle, which looks like an ornately decorated wedding cake prepared for
the day he marries Daisy; its the perfect setting for a Hollywood happy
ending. But money cant buy him love. At least, new money cant. As Tom, the
old-money sadist, explains to Gatsby: Were different.
The rich are different, Fitzgerald said, prompting Ernest Hemingways
cynical response, Yes, they have more money. But Fitzgerald was right: The
rich are different, because they think theyve earned their money, that it
makes them American royalty, unbound by the laws that govern the mass of
people whom they notice only in passing contempt. Gatsby uses his
connection with the Mayor of New York to wriggle out of a speeding ticket, but
thats just a minor perk of the new rich. The old rich, as the book and this
movie demonstrate, can literally get away with murder.
MILD END-OF-MOVIE-SPOILER ALERT: Nick has completed the memoir of
his friend, which he has called Gatsby. He leans over the manuscript and,
as a final tribute and validation, adds two words above the title: The Great.
Fitzgeralds book has an enduring excellence, a hold on readers of every
generation, that no movie version has yet been able to match. No question

that Baz Luhrmann has concocted the worthiest, tenderest and most extreme
of these adaptations. It deserves to be called The Gatsby. Just not great

4) BFI
Jay Gatsby is an outsized part that requires a movie star, in the classical,
Valentino sense. Scott Fitzgerald laid down a big drumroll build-up before his
title character, the mysterious host of West Eggs maddest parties, finally
appeared in his novel. This is nothing, however, compared to the ballyhoo
in Baz Luhrmanns film before he finally whips the tarp off Gatsby. He
appears, and its Leonardo DiCaprio, as we knew it would be and as it seems
it must be, and Rhapsody in Blue plays and fireworks burst, and its all very
silly and suddenly touching when DiCaprio smiles. Like much in Luhrmanns
Great Gatsby, like Gatsby, the reveal is too much, and more than a little
moving in its excess.

It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in


you as you would like to believe in yourself, narrator Nick Carraway says of
Gatsbys smile in Fitzgeralds text a quote that appears verbatim in the film,
along with many others. Which is not to say that the novel is scrupulously
followed in every detail. In one of the innovations of Luhrmann and long-time
collaborator Craig Pearces screenplay, Tobey Maguires Carraway is
introduced recovering at a sanatorium, far away from the New York scene and
the riotous summer that wrecked his nerves.
This little addition does not, I think, add much to our understanding of
Carraway, and has the odour of I Am the Cheese and English-class discussions
of is Holden Caulfield writing from an asylum? about it. For many, it will be
enough to prove that lurid Luhrmann has made a hash of one of the finest
novels written in the United States. It takes $100 million to make an accident!
Did Pat Hobby write this script? O, huge incoherent failure!
But I keep going back to DiCaprios Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, the poor boy who fell
in love with a rich girl named Daisy, and who, to curry her favour, reinvented
himself as a gentleman in the memorable formulation of H.L. Mencken, a
young man with a great deal of mysterious money, the tastes of a movie
actor and, under it all, the simple sentimentality of a somewhat sclerotic fat
woman.
Leonardo DiCaprio became very rich by playing a star-crossed lover in
Luhrmanns 1996Romeo + Juliet and a poor boy in love with a rich girl in
James Camerons 1997 Titanic. Cameron reported that he had clashed with
DiCaprio over the rather straightforward romantic lead that hed asked the

actor to play, telling him: Im not going to make this guy brooding and
neurotic and Im not going to give him a hump and a tic and a twitch and a
limp and all the other things that you want.
The resulting performance granted DiCaprio phenomenal Tiger
Beat popularity, and this was evidently an embarrassment to an actor who
harboured aspirations to be a serious tragedian despite his pretty,
untrammelled face. So DiCaprio used his newfound clout and spent most of
the next 15 years locating projects in which he would be scourged and
tormented, his features crumbled with angst until all hint of callow youth had
been stamped out. Only Mickey Rourke was more thorough.
This is why that smile is so astonishing. DiCaprio has allowed himself to be
radiant again here. It is a different kind of beauty now, for he is a long way
from 22, and the residue of the past 15 years of ceaseless suffering remains
on his face so much the better. The self-invented Gatsby is a palimpsest;
DiCaprios delicate, transparent performance allows us glimpses of the erased
character.

Gatsbys fidgeting is a wavering between hopeful self-determination and selfdoubt; for all his genius, Gatsby suspects that the chasm he has set his mind
to leaping may be unbridgeable. This anxiety manifests in punctilious
stiffness those compulsive old sports and beneath the blithe clubman
veneer you can see a man stiflingly aware of the impression he is making, on
guard. DiCaprio has never been finer, and only once does he really break in
the style weve come to expect of him, a flare-up when challenged by the
husband of his beloved Daisy, where he turns just as pink as the pinstripe suit
hes wearing.
Joel Edgerton plays Daisys brutish, to-the-manner-born husband Tom, freed
from obligation to keep up appearances by his pedigree. Its the only
performance overshadowed by one in Jack Claytons etiolated 1974 Gatsby,
which had Bruce Dern in the part. Carey Mulligan, Luhrmanns Daisy,
does well in drawing out the equivocation of the role she shows an inkling of
the glittering prize that Gatsby sees in her yet never gives too much away, for
it is the cautious WASP credo of spend the interest and dont touch the
principal that Daisy, on an emotional level, embodies.
Mulligans performance comes across, perhaps by necessity, more hazily
than Elizabeth Debickis Jordan Baker, the books cheating golf pro and Nicks
occasional lady companion. With her slinky, bosomless frame, Debicki is as
sleek as a deco ornament, and I wouldve welcomed more of both her and
Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who lends his grave suavity to the role of
Jewish gambler Meyer Wolfsheim.
That bit of casting is more than a token outreach to the subcontinent market.
Luhrmanns conception of the Roaring 20s takes much from Bollywood, as
well as from Studio 54 and Big Pimpin any excess will do. Where Claytons

Gatsby was an East Egg film, steeped in the limpid manners of the
entrenched aristocracy, Luhrmanns is a tacky, arriviste West Egg film of
spectroscopic gayety. Luhrmann splurges in party scenes, which are a
brocaded chaos of confetti, streamers, butterfly ceiling hangings, gushing
champagne here the 3D almost justifies the price-gouge, with Luhrmann
layering manifold textures likeJosef von Sternberg given carte blanche.

Gatsbys West Egg home is spoken of as resembling a theme park or the


Worlds Fair. Its pointy turrets suggest the Magic Kingdom, its terraced
gardens are almost confectionary. The property was acquired, as you may
remember, for the view it provides of the Buchanan home in East Egg, and
Luhrmann takes great pleasure in swooshing across aching distances,
skimming over misty Manhasset Bay.
One of this Gatsbys delights is the way it finds cinematic gestures befitting
the books mythologised Greater New York geography, following the
careening, suicidal to-and-fro voyages from a Manhattan of the imagination in
Gatsbys huge yellow land-yacht of a car. Resurrected through CG, nothing in
this lost city is remotely plausible but the weightlessness of pixel-based art
is a boon here, for Fitzgeralds idea of the period as a sort of masshallucination fits the way the actors swim through ethereal environments: a
rooftop tea-garden or a Times Square dominated by a faceless Arrow Collar ad
which takes on a mysterious import when reflected in a cab window. The
uncanniness of this high-definition unreality crests early, in a moment when
Carraway looks out of the suite where he is presently ensnared in a party
and looks down to see himself looking back up from the street.
I was within and without, says Carraway and so too is Luhrmanns movie
inside and outside its period, its pastiche 1920s fed through the filter of
contemporary greed and celebrity-culture fecklessness. Maguire has known
DiCaprio from their days as child actors, and watching them hitting a
speakeasy together brings back reminiscences of the high, heady days of the
Pussy Posse. This ostensible indictment of the richs vast carelessness
comes with Brooks Brothers and Tiffanys tie-ins, and a Jay-Z executiveproduced soundtrack whose leadoff single is Lana Del Reys Young and
Beautiful, the product of a marketing conspiracy whose complex, sinister
mechanism would boggle Scott Fitzgeralds imagination.
Yet it is a fact that every cautionary tale must also be an invitation, truer than
ever in tantalisingly visual cinema. Fitzgeralds novel, whose shining world
seduces and abandons the reader, would not be great if it did not risk
appearing as a celebration of the very thing that it despises. Luhrmanns
Gatsby owes much of its frisson to the tension between the directors
destructive extravagance and the melancholy optimism of DiCaprios Gatsby,
as different as Saturday night and Sunday morning. It is not the novel, no, but
happy to report, the madly embattled result is a real movie.

5) The Guardian

F Scott Fitzgerald's classic, complex novella of bad timing and lost love in the
Jazz Age has been brought once again to the cinema, now starring Leonardo
DiCaprio as the enigmatic young plutocrat Gatsby himself; Carey Mulligan as
Daisy, the object of his passion, and Tobey Maguire as Daisy's cousin Nick, the
outsider-insider through whose wondering narration the story is filtered.
Having watched this fantastically unthinking and heavy-handed adaptation,
the opening gala of this year's Cannes festival, I feel the only way to make it
less subtle would be to let Michael Bay direct it. As it is, the task has fallen to
Baz Luhrmann, the director of Moulin Rouge! and Australia, a man who can't
see a nuance without calling security for it to be thrown off his set.
With literary adaptations, part of the fascination generally lies in seeing how
the director has read the source material, perhaps with some new
interpretation. But what exactly Luhrmann makes of the legend of Jay Gatsby
the invisible, wounded centre of a thousand extravagant parties is still a
mystery to me, hours after the final credits have rolled. If Luhrmann was to
make a new version of The Wizard Of Oz, his wizard would finally stride out
from behind the curtain a magnificent and talented giant, every bit as
awesome as his reputation, and the final 45 minutes of the movie would be a
colossal party scene, dominated by the colossus Oz, with crash zooms and 3D
swoops.
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As for his Gatsby, it is bombastic and excessive, like a 144-minute trailer for
itself, at once pedantic and yet unreflective, as if Luhrmann and co-writer
Craig Pearce had created the film on the basis of a brief, bullet-pointed
executive summary of the book prepared by a corporate assistant. They are
quite clear in their minds that the final sentence of the book is very famous
and very important and they actually spell it out on screen in typewriterletters as it is being narrated. But the actual ending, those desperately sad,
subdued final scenes, and the heartwrenching encounter with Gatsby's
elderly father well, Luhrmann hasn't attached much importance to that. It's
a glib and shallow film; but there are moments of sweetness in DiCaprio's
scenes with Mulligan as their love is rekindled, and those anachronistic
musical sequences from Jay-Z, such a bone of contention, are actually bold
moments when the film comes crazily alive, and has some of the irreverent
energy of Lurhmann's version of Romeo and Juliet.

The film is in fact narrated in flashback, with Maguire's Nick attempting


therapy for his depression and alcoholism, an interesting 21st century slant
on all the frenzied drinking going on. He recalls being a young bond trader in
the Prohibition years who somehow rents a tiny cottage up in the Hamptons,
just next door to the much-whispered-about Gatsby, who holds staggeringly
sumptuous parties in his mansion. Nick renews his acquaintance with his
cousin Daisy (Mulligan) who lives in elegant ennui and unspoken melancholy
just across the bay from Gatsby, with her boorish wealthy husband Tom
Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Gatsby is keen for Nick to engineer a discreet
meeting with Daisy, and whatever lucrative racket Gatsby's into, he's
prepared to let Nick have a piece of it, with an introduction to his shadowy
business acquaintance Wolfsheim: an odd cameo from Bollywood legend
Amitabh Bachchan. For his part, Nick is disturbed by evidence that Tom is
having an affair with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), the brassy wife of a
roadhouse manager.
Luhrmann creates vivid 1920s backdrops behind all this: faintly preposterous
and yet undeniably lively: all-singing, all-dancing, all-greenscreening effects
work, and Jay-Z's music is audacious and exhilarating. There is colourised
black-and-white footage and depthless digital panoramas of New York, the
Hamptons and the ashy, crummy no-man's-land in-between; there are hyperreal street scenes through which Gatsby roars in his sports car. And of course
there are plenty of those headache-inducing camera zooms.
The parties are logistically impressive, but Fitzgerald's disturbing sense that
we are witnessing something like an American Weimar is not really there, and
even the gushing, shaken-champagne-bottle approach doesn't quite
approximate the giddy sense that America really is where gigantic fortunes
are suddenly and unfairly to be made. When Gatsby finally reveals himself, it
is to the accompaniment of fireworks and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a
misjudged moment and an ambient gimmick Luhrmann has clearly taken off
the peg from the opening of Woody Allen's Manhattan.
DiCaprio carries the role off reasonably well; he is probably the only possible
casting, and Mulligan's Daisy has gentleness and vulnerability. Their initial
intimate meeting over tea in Nick's cottage, has some charge, and DiCaprio
and Mulligan handle it well. But we are soon back to the digital city scenes
and crash zooms, and we are incessantly left with the obtuse and tiresome
figure of Nick himself, that non-participating narrator played by Maguire with

a zonked expression of well, what exactly? He looks perpetually


supercilious and hungover without having drunk half as much as anyone else.
This is a movie whose adjective is unearned. It's a flashy Gatsby, a sighing
Gatsby, an angry Gatsby, a celeb Gatsby. But not a great one.