Widely considered to be one of the greatest American novels, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby certainly commands an earnest film adaption. Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 effort makes the fourth cinematic iteration of this classic novel and, while it is not without fault, the director effectively captures the wanton mirth surrounding the “Roaring Twenties.” Scenes depicting Gatsby’s over-the-top festivities are as jubilant as one can imagine while reading the source material. In fact, the manufactured nature of it all is illustrated through Luhrmann’s direction of the film as a whole.
One particular scene that comes to mind – as Daisy and protagonist, Nick Carraway, are conversing at Tom Buchanan’s – features three African-American servants simultaneously opening these three massive doors to the patio, in unison. Superfluous theatrics such as this are not depicted in the book, but nevertheless speak to the essence of the times. That being said, many critics take issue with the mere presence of contemporary music featuring artists like Kanye West and executive producer, Jay-Z, claiming a disconnect from the time period in which viewers are ostensibly immersed. This notion is, however, misguided, as all of the selected music is lyrically appropriate.
In terms of performance, each of the film’s actors brings his A-game. Leonardo DiCaprio effectively portrays Gatsby’s angst when he is finally reunited with Daisy, whose lovely nature is captured by Carey Mulligan. Joel Edgerton plays Tom Buchanan precisely as I imagined while reading the book, and Tobey Maguire does a fair job as Nick Carraway. Artistically speaking, I believe both Maguire and Luhrmann had the most freedom in the treatment of this character, seeing as how readers of the novel aren’t as acquainted with Carraway’s mannerisms as they are with his moral compass. As the protagonist, his function was primarily perspective, and the director’s creation of the psychiatrist at the beginning of the film proves as much.
All things considered, The Great Gatsby (2013) is definitely worth watching, whether you have read Fitzgerald’s novel or not. The only issues I had with Luhrmann’s film were the slight overuse of Dr. TJ Eckleburg’s eyes. The playful vibe of the film’s direction, which the director intended, seemed overdone at certain points. Interestingly enough, a scene I did not like either in the novel or the film – the one in which Gatsby throws a bunch of shirts down at Daisy, causing her to eventually weep – was illustrated quite well in this film, to my chagrin. These minor drawbacks do little to take away from the cinematic luster of Baz Luhrmann’s direction, however. I only wish I got to see it in IMAX 3-D.