Viewed – 21 May 2013 Cinema
Going into this, I had quite clear expectations. From a director such as Baz Luhrmann (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) I knew I would get something visually dazzling, highly theatrical and bursting to the seems with larger-than-life costumes and characters It’s kinda his calling card. Yet as a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio also, I had expectations of another memorable performance from one of the best in the business.
This tells the tale of wall street worker Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) who moves into a house located next door to famed playboy Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), an almost legendary figure in New York during the 1920s who rarely appears in public and hosts numerous dazzling parties for the locales. Yet the reality behind the myth intrigues and so Carraway befriends the reclusive billionaire and attempts to help him with a little problem with a long-lost love, who just happens to be Carraway’s cousin.
From the start, this is a stunning movie to just sit back and take in … imagination, set design, gorgeous visuals and a fantastic use of modern music rejigged to a 20’s jazz soundtrack (Beyonce’s Crazy In Love?) … showcases Luhrmann playing at full throttle. At the heart of the spectacle however is a simple story of love, obsession and a little bit of mystery. Initially I found it hard to get to grips with, so awash with the sheer visual overload, that concentrating on the story was difficult. Thankfully things settle down with solid, complex turns from both DiCaprio and Maguire. Add to this a sultry Carey Mulligan and an enjoyably boo-hiss Joel Edgerton ... and this proved an often surprising and enjoyable tale, with strong echoes of Citizen Kane. I think considering DiCaprio’s array of quality performances over the years, this came across more old-fashioned, screen idol than serious acting, and in some ways the movie was guilty of a too much Hollywood glitz to take completely serious. Often Maguire’s wide-eyed goofy-grin made him look like a rabbit caught in the headlights, and with such reliance on green-screen – it was sometimes like a fantasy movie without the dragons or wizards. Not helped by the fact sometimes actors didn’t look like they were really ‘there’, which they obviously wasn’t.
As it stands though this is a treat for fans of truly interesting looking movies, the kind that deserve the big screen treatment, not because of action sequences but because each shot looks like an oil painting – something Luhrmann has always been an artist at. Beyond this however is an absorbing but not quite so amazing story, with decent rather than ‘wow’ performances – but either way, still deserves your attention.
Verdict: 4 /5