© Warner Bros. Pictures Germany

Der Große Gatsby (The Great Gatsby)
Australia/U.S.A. 2013

Opening 16 May 2013

Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Writing credits: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pierce, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Principal actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher

Australian Baz Luhrmann’s (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet) distinct directorial style permeates this newest film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, giving it a techno-glitzy facelift. It captivates and entertains, notwithstanding some scenes border on kitsch, however the message is not lost in the telling. Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) lands in New York City in 1922 during the heady Roaring Twenties era – unprecedented prosperity, jazz music, bootleg speakeasies, and nefarious behavior.

He rents a house on Long Island across the bay from cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her filthy rich, hedonistic husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), and next-door to a young, mysterious millionaire. Jay Gatsby’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) aura – opulent parties, solitary demeanor, and surreptitious wealth – fuels gossip. When finally they meet, Gatsby overwhelms Nick. Easily succumbing to the obsessively riotous lifestyle, Nick learns about Gatsby and Daisy’s secret past, and is instrumental in arranging for them to meet, with positive albeit tenuous results. Soon enough though, Gatsby’s mindless intensity charts a route for tragedy. Nick’s eventual disgust excludes Gatsby, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together”.

DiCaprio, master of subtlety, commands the Gatsby – “old sport” – persona, as if Fitzgerald wrote it for him. Edgerton is a compelling scoundrel, and Mulligan’s Daisy is demure yet self-absorbed. Only Maguire does not externalize the strength his character needs, to navigate the intricacies involved in the characters’ entanglements. With a faithful adaptation, a good music score, costume designs that take one’s breathe away, and shots reminiscent of fine art masterpieces, the producers should have nixed the 3D effect for purer visual gratification. Fitzgerald’s message may be 88-years old, yet is just as relevant today: Moral courage and money seldom mix. (Marinell Haegelin)

Second Opinion

I really enjoyed Gatsby. The time flew for me and would never have guessed being in the cinema over two and a half hours! The film had the same feel of a fantasy that I felt watching Moulin Rouge!; like going to Disney World or the Cirque du Soleil. It really showed the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, in a more over-the-top, but visually exciting way.

This includes repeated visual references to musicians (Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker), and artworks such as when Gatsby often stood with his back to us, at the end of his pier looking at Daisy’s house, reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrick’s famous painting, Wanderer above the Sea Fog, where the lone figure in a similar position watches the dangerous icebergs. Despite the beauty of the scene, with this comparison is director Luhrmann predicting a tragedy?

Daisy’s reluctance to go with Gatsby, and her inability to respond more honestly about the accident, emphasizes the frivolity of her character. What a tragedy. (Nancy Tilitz)

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