The Great Gatsby – 2013
Director Baz Luhrmann
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke
Screenplay by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce based on the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“It was all for her. The house. The parties. Everything.”
Daisy is his Rosebud. But she’s so much less.
The moment his heart was fulfilled was the moment that he discovered it had a hole in it.
Every day is a party, hosted by the man with the greatest reputation. Every day, the host waited for that train in the distance. Someone across the water. He built an empire with her in mind at the placing of every brick. She his weakest point and, unfortunately, his foundation. It’s a story as old as writing. The spurned lover who conquers world, but cannot conquer their own heart. Baz Luhrmann captures all of this in the hue of a beautiful green light.
The Great Gatsby is a story that has been many times put onto the big screen. Until now, it’s been as elusive as Daisy. A masterwork story that is as unfilmable as it is unforgettable. Luhrmann just made it unforgettable. Anyone seeing the movie for the visual splendor will not be disappointed. It is perhaps the most beautiful film he’s ever made. Every scene seems as surreal as our national memories of the roaring 20’s. The Cohen brothers tried to do this once, with the Hudsucker Proxy. It did not work at all. Luhrmann, a native of Australia, hit the nail on the head. If you see no other film this year for the sheer beauty of it, see Gatsby.
The cast is perfect. As Daisy, Mulligan has found the role of a lifetime. The trick of Daisy is that one needs to see her as a haunted object of desire, but then allow her to be revealed as the kind of person who does not live up to the dream. She is, though, still a person, complex, beautiful, shallow and horrible. Mulligan has been the first two things many times on film. No role has allowed her the chance to round herself out to be the other two.
As her horrid and obtuse husband Tom, Joel Edgerton may seem over qualified, if a lesser director had been at the helm. Luhrmann and Pearce’s script, though, shows the brilliance in casting such a talented actor. When faced with the crisis of his life, Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan comes alive. His perversity is what gives him the advantage over his earnest, yet baseless foe. He sees through his adversary and decimates him. Absolutely fearless moment that elevates every other less challenging scene in the film.
Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway is wonderful as the narrator. We see the film through his beautifully naïve eyes. He wants the dream, almost as much as his hero, Gatsby. When it doesn’t happen, he is broken. Luhrmann brings him further into madness than the book, but it works for more than one reason. Maguire has made a wonderful career of being quiet and watching. He has the difficult job of understanding everything, but only when it’s too late. His information could save the hero of his story, if only that hero did not have ignorance as his Achilles heel.
That hero, Jay Gatsby, is just another in a long line of great performances by DiCaprio. Capturing the intrigue, the desperation, the courage and ignorant grace of one of the biggest characters in the last 100 years, DiCaprio’s performance has echoes of other performances, like The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can and even Django Unchained. All of these men are resourceful and flawed. Brilliant and myopic. They have the world in their hands, but they weren’t looking for the world. The were concentrating on something smaller than that.
There is not much talk about this film winning the big Oscars. It doesn’t even sound like it’s going to receive a significant number of nominations. This really can’t be too big of a surprise, I guess. It was a popular film, and the reviews kind of write themselves for Luhrmann’s films. Nice sets, great color, cool soundtrack, surreal. It has all that. If you keep your fixations on that, you might miss something better. I just don’t see how you could.
(***** out of *****)