Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Director takes ‘Roaring ’20s’ literally with loud, garish Gatsby adaptation

  • Print
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

WARNER BROS. PICTURES Enlarge Image

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

IN the first minute of this film, keep your eyes open for the logo of director Baz Luhrmann’s company Bazmark Films. It includes the excellent motto, lifted from his 1992 film Strictly Ballroom: "A life lived in fear is a life half-lived."

So, if nothing else, expect fearlessness in Luhrmann’s film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In translating the book to film, Luhrmann boldly turns it into a 3D spectacle: Fitzgerald’s timeless prose is transposed to an outsized, gaudy, pop-up storybook.

Luhrmann, who also co-scripted with Craig Pearce, quickly shakes things up with a framing device placing the book’s narrator, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), in a sanitorium where he is recovering from a condition of sleeplessness and debilitating alcoholism, suggesting that Carraway is a stand-in for Fitzgerald himself.

Instead of the "talking cure," Carraway is prescribed a writing cure by his wise old therapist (Jack Thompson) and out tumbles the story of how Carraway, in New York to make a killing in the bonds business, finds himself whisked into the lives of the rich and capricious.

The introduction comes via his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), married to the heel Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a polo-playing scion of entitled wealth. Nick is drafted as a kind of accomplice when Tom takes him to an apartment in New York City where he keeps his assignations with his sexy mistress, Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), the wife of a pathetic garage mechanic, George (Jason Clarke).

In his own humble Long Island cabin, Nick becomes aware of Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) through the lavish parties he throws on the estate next door. Gatsby is a mysterious figure, rumoured to have "killed a man." When Gatsby discovers Nick is Daisy’s cousin, a friendship is struck. Gatsby employs Nick as a go-between in an effort to win the heart of Daisy, with whom he fell in love five years earlier.

Gatsby’s actual history is a mystery to be solved. "This house and everything in it is an elaborate disguise," says a wise freeloader living in Gatsby’s home. But otherwise, this is a straightforward story subject to insane stylistic embellishment by Luhrmann, including a contemporary soundtrack produced by Jay-Z and outright cartoonish visual effects. (Gatsby’s famous yellow car zooms around like an automotive escapee from Speed Racer.)

It is aggressively stylish, and unnecessary. In a key scene in the movie, when Gatsby, Nick, the Buchanans and Nick’s worldly girlfriend Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) converge at a suite in the Plaza Hotel where Gatsby makes his play for Daisy, Luhrmann plays it straight, with nary a single computer­generated doodad in sight nor a rapper on the soundtrack. And the actors hold their own quite well, thank you, especially Di Caprio, who brings a deeper romance and a sense of danger to the role that was wholly absent when Robert Redford played him in 1974. Edgerton likewise succeeds as the despicable Tom, and Mulligan does subtle work as a romantic heroine fatally lacking in the departments of both romance and heroism.

But the dynamics of the novel — how the wealthy tend to make pawns of the impoverished — is lost in the movie’s noisy, coloursaturated flash. In the wake of this movie, Luhrmann might consider another company motto, from another line of dialogue courtesy of Gatsby, when he fills Nick’s rustic house with flowers as a means to impress Daisy prior to her anticipated visit: "Do you think it’s too much?"

 

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Friday, May 10, 2013 at 9:16 AM CDT: Adds missing part of review.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

About Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

His dad was Winnipeg musician Jimmy King, a one-time columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. One of his brothers is a playwright. Another is a singer-songwriter.

Randall has been content to cover the entertainment beat in one capacity or another since 1990.

His beat is film, and the job has placed him in the same room as diverse talents, from Martin Scorsese to Martin Short, from Julie Christie to Julia Styles. He has met three James Bonds (four if you count Woody Allen), and director Russ Meyer once told him: "I like your style."

He really likes his job.

Poll

Do you agree with the province’s crackdown on flavoured tobacco products?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google