It was always going to be risky trying to re-create the magic of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby. Four attempts have been made prior to Baz Luhrmann’s latest rendition, including the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. None however have had as much build up and exposure as this. My expectations for this film were of course extremely high. The trailer throws the audience in with a dazzling portrayal of decadent parties and beautiful people, accompanied by a soundtrack consisting of Jay-Z, Lana Del Ray and Beyonce. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that this film would be spectacular.
In true Luhrmann style the film is a spectacle of glitz, glamour and hedonism all set against a backdrop of a bustling 1920’s New York. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby, the wealthy enigmatic stranger living next door to the films narrator, Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire. Carey Mulligan plays Daisy Buchanan, the married lost love Gatsby relentlessly tries to win back despite the presence of her husband. The chemistry between DiCaprio and Mulligan is both scintillating and infuriating. The acting from both is undoubtedly great, however, I found it difficult to empathise with either character in their search for the fulfillment that seems unattainable throughout. The stolen kisses and passionate rendezvous between the pair are initially exciting but eventually tiring when it becomes painfully apparent that no good can come of their liaison.
In parts the film felt like a shadow of its former and frankly better, Moulin Rouge. The same framing device was used to tell the story, a young Carraway finding his feet in a place filled with debauchery and spectacle compared with Ewan McGregor’s Christian searching for love in a town of vice and sin. Unlike Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby failed to convey the same sense of loss and despair when it came to the love story of the two main protagonists. The film is visually stunning but behind the sumptuous costumes and general flamboyance it lacks depth and substance. There is so much going on it’s hard to truly get to know the characters enough to care what happens to them. The moments in the film that should be emotionally intense and poignant simply fall flat. At the end of the film I was left wondering, what is supposed to be so great about this Gatsby? I am hopeful that the book will give me the answers I’m looking for and live up to my expectations, unlike its modern film adaptation.