The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ is generating international buzz these days. It was presented at the Cannes film festival with a pomp and show worthy of a big release.

Baz Luhrmann is known best for his marvelous 1996 film, Romeo and Juliet in which he superimposed Shakespeare’s well known romantic tragedy from ancient Italy to a modern American town, and created a film full of passion. This rightfully won him a lot of acclaim.

His subsequent films, Moulin Rouge and Australia, did not quite thrill viewers as much but there is still always a high expectation from his films.  Eagerly anticipating, his viewers expect his offering to be something out of the ordinary. Something with a passionate sweep that moves the viewers.

So how does The Great Gatsby stack up then?

The Great Gatsby is the story of Jay Gatsby who became mysteriously rich during the roaring twenties in the USA. Despite his financial corruption, he has a decent core, as his neighbor Nick Carraway discovers. Nick has moved to New York to work in the bonds business at Wall Street. He chooses to live in West Egg, Long Island and finds that he has a flamboyant neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Jay is bent upon befriending Nick, who soon discovers why.  Jay is interested in re-acquainting himself with Nick’s cousin Daisy.  Daisy is married (unhappily) to Tom Buchanan who is a rich heir living in style on East Egg.

Nick finds himself observing closely the world of these two, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby.  Jay is nouveau riche, his means of acquiring wealth are suspect. But his morals are seemingly above board. Tom Buchanan and Daisy are old money and of an impeccable pedigree, but their morals are suspect. How these two worlds clash and seek to destroy each other is what the novel is all about.

Baz Luhrmann has mounted the film lavishly in 3D and 2D.  The party scenes are full of crowd, color and madness that he is a past master at.  The grand palaces that Gatsby and the Buchanans live in, their flashy cars and clothes, are eye-catching. Yet, Luhrmann does not push the envelope. The movie is a straightforward narration of the book.  There is no attempt by Luhrmann to create anything extraordinary.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby and has an impressive introduction in the film.  He is competent, but like his director, he does not push the envelope either. Tobey Maguire plays Nick Carraway. It was a tad creepy that he was present in almost every frame of the film, sometimes even when the protagonists were having intimate moments. Joel Edgerton was a very convincing Tom Buchanan, cruel and selfish. Carey Mulligan too, was sweet and cute, the golden girl, with a hard core. Wonderfully played, Mulligan!

Amitabh Bachchan appears in a cameo as Meyer Wolfsheim, the main mover and shaker behind Jay Gatsby’s fortune. He is mentioned more often in the movie than his actual appearance. He is again, a competent choice.

In summary one can only say that, while the impact of the movie falls short of the hype it has created, it cannot be denied that making a movie out of a classic novel has its rewards. A rich story never fails to create good cinema.