F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940, at the age of forty-four: impoverished, never to know the immensity of the literary legacy that continues to enthrall, captivate and hypnotize readers and movie audiences seventy-three -years after his premature passing.
Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the iconic classic is a stylized, gaudy, formulaic extravaganza of mythic proportions; palaces of Disneyland size and style; glitz galore, million- dollar parties swathed in fountains of champagne, divine divas, charismatic charlatans (“Meyer Wolfsheim”, Bollywood’s own icon, Amitabh Bachchan) and “all that rap”. Filmed in 3-D, viewers are intimately sucked into exacerbated magnificence, swirling opulence, delightful, dizzying decadence of pre-tax years; it is 1922, WWI is a memory, the stock market is experiencing a meteoric ascent; life is lived passionately, excessively one breathless, inebriated day at a time.
“Jay Gatsby” of all Fitzgerald’s protagonists, encompasses the author’s insecurities, misplaced ideals, goals; yet remains enigmatic, romantic, spiritually naive; for his vast wealth and conniving stealth, it is his purity, especially his love for “Daisy” that seals our empathy, eventual sympathy. Leonardo DiCaprio is positively sublime as the disillusioned pillar of colossal wealth; his physical perfection, matched by his profound understanding of “Gatsby” grow exponentially with each scene; Gatsby’s tragic flaw was not recognizing his uniqueness, “greatness”, blinded by the monetary entitlement of those he sought to emulate; DiCaprio’s interpretation, captures Fitzgerald’s intent.
Fortunately, “Nick Carraway” Gatsby’s neighbor and narrator of the tale, seeks and yearns to know the man hiding behind the tableau; he is “Daisy’s” cousin and a bridge to Jay and Daisy reconnecting after a five -year hiatus. Wide-eyed Tobey Maguire gives a solid performance as a sycophant evolving into a friend, a biographer.
“Daisy Buchanan” (an abhorrent, duplicitous character) Gatsby’s muse, and “Tom Buchanan’s” (terrifically portrayed by Joel Edgerton) wife, is depicted by the fine English actress, Carey Mulligan; Daisy is one of the most problematic of Fitzgerald’s creations, a metaphor for inherited money but actually, in the words of Gertrude Stein, “there’s no there, there” (or in this case “their”). Mulligan does as well as possible depicting this rich, spoiled, spineless twit.
“The Great Gatsby” is flawed, too heavy on theatrics, but the message is prolifically alive today, as in the past; there will always be those who define themselves by the DNA sloshing through their veins; by the might of their purchasing power; likewise, they will always be hollow vessels, lacking gravity, simply “sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!