Author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, which was published in 1925. This novel is claimed to be a great piece of American literature, as it's being assigned in schools across the country. It has been a few years since I have read it, but I remember how the narrative plays out. Given the source material, audiences will undeniably hold extremely high expectations. I went into this picture wanting to give it the chance it deserves. Unfortunately, Baz Luhrmann's involvement as the writer/director had me worried. This motion picture could have been a lot better under another filmmaker's control. While his musical Moulin Rouge! received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, his signature simply doesn't appear to fit this feature's tone. However, his eye for visuals will surely leave viewers satisfied.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is working on Wall Street in the 1920s. He lives across the way from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). One day, Nick receives an invitation to his neighbor Jay Gatsby's (Leonardo DiCaprio) party. He's incredibly rich, as he holds extravagant parties every weekend. While there are countless rumors about him, nobody knows who he truly is. Nick ultimately becomes slightly more acquainted with his mysterious neighbor, but he soon learns that Gatsby is in love with Daisy. He finds himself caught in the middle of this romance as the chaos unfolds.
Writer/director Baz Luhrmann has drenched everything from the introduction until the ending credits in beautiful visuals. This leaves an important question: is the screenplay as impressive as the breathtaking visuals? Unfortunately, it doesn't come close. The film begins by merely speaking about the mysterious Jay Gatsby, which will only be truly felt by those who haven't read the book. Before the narrative focuses on Gatsby, we're forced to sit through a large amount of Nick's backstory. Since the entire feature is told from his perspective, the audience is trapped in his point-of-view. Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce's screenplay is incredibly over-the-top. It lacks even the smallest amount of subtlety. The entire film feels as if we're at one of Gatsby's outrageous parties, which ultimately becomes chaotic. Fans of the source material will take offense to this, although it makes for an entertaining two hours and twenty minutes.
The Great Gatsby is known to hold a large amount of symbolism within its romantic plot. Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for years, even though he hasn't seen her for quite some time. Regardless of the fact that she's married, he continues to pursue her with Nick's help. The screenplay can make a love story enchanting or it can make it disastrous. Luhrmann and Pearce's screenplay makes it unconvincing, which will leave audiences feeling disconnected from the story. However, the individual characters will draw you in with ease. A lot of the dialogue between Gatsby and Daisy appears to be hollow. The filmmakers have clearly put a lot of effort into making this feature seem grand, but the writing lacks the authenticity it needs to back it up. Gatsby's love for Daisy is clear as he speaks to Nick, but the screenwriters have written an unsatisfying amount of material for the actors to work with. Perhaps they should have spent more time nurturing this relationship's development.
Even though this film has a flawed screenplay, it didn't bore me for a single moment. The Great Gatsby immerses its audience in a fantastical world, which contains some of the key symbolic images you'd expect to see in an adaptation from this classic novel. Even though viewers will be hit over the head with these messages, at least they're present. The screenplay is the weakest link, but it has a few redeeming qualities. A large amount of this romantic drama is quite fluid, which allows this film's structure to move along rather nicely. Regardless of the fact that this screenplay isn't a complete waste of time, it definitely has more cons than pros.
Luhrmann might not hit every note correctly, but a lot of his cast does. Tobey Maguire is the odd man out, since he doesn't entirely fit into the role. He has a few genuine moments, although the majority of his performance feels awkward. On the other hand, Leonardo DiCaprio is absolutely phenomenal in the role of Jay Gatsby. Not only does he look the part, but he delivers the strongest performance in the entire picture. DiCaprio is utterly superb from start to finish. Joel Edgerton delivers some excellent scenes with DiCaprio as Tom Buchanan. These scenes will have your eyes glued to the screen. Carey Mulligan fits in the role of Daisy Buchanan very nicely. Her interactions with DiCaprio are genuine, but the script puts a wall in between the audience and these characters. Jason Clarke and Isla Fisher have smaller performances as George Wilson and Myrtle Wilson, although they receive an incredibly small amount of time on screen. With the exception of Maguire, this cast is quite fitting.
This writer/director has difficulty with the characters' relationships, although he delivers jaw-dropping visuals. The entire picture is over-the-top, but the party sequences are the most outrageous. Nearly every frame has been rendered with CGI effects, which gives the film a digital atmosphere. While this might sound like a negative aspect, it actually fits the fantastical tone it was trying to achieve. This 3D-native flick delivers a considerable amount of depth. It isn't entirely necessary, but if you support the format, you'll be satisfied with the results. Otherwise, the feature's 2D presentation will still leave audiences amazed.
This adaptation won't meet a lot of viewers' expectations, but it's still worth seeing. The visuals and Leonardo DiCaprio's performance make this worth checking out on the big screen. Unfortunately, the narrative may be surrounded by plenty of fantastic visuals, but its hollow. The film lacks the depth that could have made this feature great. As it stands, this is a watchable big screen adaptation. The screenplay has substantial issues, but the film is never boring. This isn't the adaptation we were hoping for, although it could have been a lot worse. The Great Gatsby is entertaining enough to recommend as a theatrical experience, but it won't stick with you.