Overview: Yet another adaptation of the novel follows the life of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) and Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) as their lives intertwine. Warner Bros Pictures/Roadshow Entertainment; 2013; Rated PG-13; 143 minutes.
The Pure Epic: Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Australia) crafts a grand stage with electrifying imagery. Luhrmann and cinematographer Simon Duggan (I, Robot; Knowing) present the Roaring 20’s in a gorgeous re-creation. Both artist exhibit zealous ambition, but they manage to control the chaos and keep cohesion against an extraordinary set design. The design takes on a colorful, bright aesthetic that holds attention well. These sights are punctuated by the film’s costume design, from Luhrmann’s wife Catherine Martin who lends her Oscar-celebrated touch to this spectacle.
Forgivable Missteps: The idea to use contemporary popular music hurts the film, almost derailing the spectacle. It felt like Luhrmann used it to suck in an audience that normally wouldn’t have cared. And though the film is gorgeous, it is noticeable that a heavy amount of CG was used. This lends the wide angle views of the city an animated feel.
Old sport: Though the film offers stunning aesthetic, the weight of the dialogue is empty. DiCaprio offers a great performance, swinging between a calm demeanor and violent outbursts, all the while held together by mystery. But as DiCaprio brings Gatsby to life, Tobey Maguire, overacting as Nick Carraway, serves as a weight on the movie’s ankles. His depiction lacks excitement, commitment, intrigue, the energy that defines the setting and the star of the film. Maguire is ultimately forgettable, left behind in numerous scenes with DiCaprio and Joel Edgerton (Tom Buchanan).
In the End: This film succeeds in exemplifying the fabled excitement of the 1920s on the back of great cinematography and set design. Some dull performances and deflated dialogue do their best to derail Luhrmann’s effort, but ultimately, with an over-the-top realization of the Jazz Age and a quality performance of the title character, this version stands as the best film adaptation of The Great Gatsby to date.
By: Travis Losh