It’s the 1920s. Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) has moved to Long Island to try his hand as a trader in the booming Wall Street game. He rents a modest house next to the legendary Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Across the bay lives his cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton).
Gatsby is an elusive figure. Few have actually met him, despite all of New York attending his lavish parties every weekend. His mansion is the epitome of excess. The alcohol flows freely, and there is always music playing. Little is known about Gatsby, but rumors abound concerning how he amassed his fortune, anything from a relative of the Kaiser, a war hero/Oxford man, to a murderer. Only at the end of the summer does Gatsby share the real story with Nick.
Nick is sucked in by Gatsby’s lifestyle. The two quickly become friends. Throughout the summer, Nick finds himself in the middle of everyone’s affairs. He soon learns that Gatsby has created his life just to win the love of his life. And he needs Nick’s help to make that happen.
An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, which we all read in high school. Well, most of us. I don’t think I actually read the book. But through discussions from so many years ago, I remember more than I realized. Although I recalled the ending a bit different from what happens in the movie. We’ll call this a fault of my memory rather than trying to create a more dramatic ending.
Leo is a period piece actor. It seems most of his roles are set some time in the past. Naturally, he fits well into this movie. Most of the cast, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, even Isla Fisher, seem to mesh well with the setting. Personally, I have a problem seeing Toby Maguire as anything other than the whiny Peter Parker. Aside from this minor distraction, the cast does a fine enough job.
Before the movie started, I questioned the decision to shoot the film in 3D. It seemed gratuitous. I was right. There really is no point to it. It seemed to just be a gimmick to show fake snow and Carraway’s words floating across the screen as he typed up his story for his therapist. This aside, there were several scenes where everything in frame was out of focus. I’m not sure what director Baz Luhrmann was trying to accomplish here. Maybe it was an attempt to be artsy. The only effect it had on me was to lean over to discuss whether it was just me who was having problems with it. And a headache. If you’re going to sit through the 2 1/2 hour “epic,” I would almost recommend seeing it in 2D. Do your eyes a favor.
A lot of the visuals, especially Gatsby and crew racing their cars through the city, looked cartoony. Perhaps it was an attempt to give the film the same feeling of excess and overindulgence that Gatsby’s life entailed. I found it distracting.
I was curious about the heavy inclusion of Jay-Z in the soundtrack. While the swing versions of some of his songs were mildly entertaining, it didn’t seem to fit. Then the credits rolled. Executive Producer: Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. Now it makes sense.
I struggled to find anything of value in seeing this interpretation of a literary classic. It feels like the film is trying too hard to be a summer blockbuster. Reaching for the sky and failing seems to be a fitting description, given the story behind The Great Gatsby. If you’re set on seeing Gatsby, I might recommend the 1974 interpretation with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.