The Great Gatsby
Release Date: May 17th 2013
Genre: Drama, Romance, History
Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Set over one hot, tragic summer, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel paints vivid prose pictures that no movie has ever captured wholly successfully (despite several attempts, most famously the 1974 Robert Redford / Mia Farrow adap).
So when Warner moved its 3D Gatsby from an award-seducing Christmas release date to a later summer slot, there was reasonable suspicion that this audacious, ostentatious take on the classic tale simply sucked.
But it turns out tentpole season is exactly the right place for this “splendid mirage”, which finds Midwestern chancer Nick Carraway (the novel’s narrator) becoming embroiled with his wealthy neighbour Jay Gatsby’s pursuit of married society beauty Daisy Buchanan.
Like Gatsby himself, the movie’s a handsome attraction whose dizzying/vulgar wealth is unashamedly flaunted to court favour with bright young things. At the same time, it pays enough due diligence to the source material to appease the purists. In fact, a clumsy framing device aside, director Baz Luhrmann (in his first big-screen outing since 2008’sAustralia) is borderline slavish to the text (re-read the book and you’ll see how precise he’s been).
Still, grumps can rightfully complain that he condenses the novel’s multi-layered exploration of manifest destiny, nouveau-riche aspiration vs blue-stocking entitlement and the brittle value of the American Dream down to a doomed romance of Titanic proportions.
Like Cameron's leaky-ship pic, this Gatsby - with its artificial Disney-esque CGI homes, God's-eye swooping camera shots, staggering scale, manipulative, idiosyncratic soundtrack and emotional shorthand - is designed to enrapture a new generation for whom the book is merely a GCSE chore.