Many of us studied the novel at school and as a result, there is a grand divide when it comes to opinions on The Great Gatsby. There are those who studied it and love it because of its complex characters, its beauty, its flowing lexis. Then there are those who studied it and hate it because of its complex characters, its use of long and mundane sentences, its complicated word structure. Nevertheless, a film is something we can all identify with, and by simply dedicating 143 minutes of our time, we can decide if we should endeavor to read the book.
It’s a story of complicated love, of course it is. Set in 1920’s New York, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)) is a wealthy tenant of West Egg, who endeavors to throw epic parties weekend after weekend in the hope that his lost love Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) will just wander in, enticed by the wealth. Tobey Maguire (who also played Spiderman) is our narrator, Nick Carraway – the reliable keeper of secrets.
It’s messy. Nick is Daisy’s cousin and she is married to Nick’s friend, Tom (Joel Edgerton), from Harvard who is sleeping with his mistress Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher). Gatsby is hoping to win back Daisy and Nick’s just looking to fulfill his own American Dream. I wanted to feel sorry for Gatsby and Daisy, feel something for them, but the passion between the forbidden lovers is not really shared with the audience. Carey has got the sweet ‘butter-wouldn’t-melt’ look perfected but I still felt there was something missing. Perhaps it was because the plot dragged in places and the action felt rushed.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel has been adapted to motion picture on four previous occasions – once in 1927, again in 1949 and 1974, and a television film in 2000 – but this is the first version where a contemporary soundtrack has been applied to the 1920’s Jazz Age, and it has really worked. I’ll be honest, the last thing I expected to see were 1920’s flapper girls dancing the Charleston to the pumping bass of Kanye West rapping. Or even to hear Alicia Keys singing Empire State of Mind when a 1929 Duesenberg and a1930 Buick recklessly race in Long Island, but I take my hat off to the director, Baz Luhrmann. Getting Jay-Z on board as an executive producer was a wise move.
It is long though, so I strongly advise bringing a cushion to sit on. The dazzle and sparkle of Gatsby’s parties soon wears off and sometimes where the plot lies thin, I found my mind wondering “seriously, what is DiCaprio’s accent supposed to be? English? American? South African?”
Despite the accent though, I think DiCaprio nails it. However, my real issue lies with Macguire. There is just something about his voice narrating the story his character so epically titled ‘The Great Gatsby’ which makes the tale sound a bit sappy, a bit pathetic, a bit meh.
I think this film will have a similar reaction to that of the book: there will be those who are inspired by the amalgamation of contemporary music and period drama, juxtaposed with the classic theme of troubled love. And there will be those who will find it over-complicated, long and dull. I would recommend it to Gatsby lovers, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 3/5.
The Great Gatsby is out in cinemas on Thursday 16th May. Watch the trailer below.