The Great Gatsby (3D) (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/05/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 144 mins

Dazzlingly directed, impeccably designed and featuring a stunning soundtrack, Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby is an audio-visual feast, though the film's excesses are occasionally overwhelming and any sense of the novel's subtlety is demolished by the sledgehammer script.

What's it all about?
Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet), The Great Gatsby is adapted from the classic 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald and stars Tobey Maguire as the book's narrator, Nick Carraway, who's entranced by the wild parties thrown by his Long Island neighbour, newly-minted millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Nick is thrilled when his mysterious neighbour appears to take a personal interest in him and agrees to organise a meeting between Gatsby and his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who was Gatsby's sweetheart before the war but has since married wealthy boorish brute Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).

The Good
Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast as Gatsby and he generates strong chemistry with Carey Mulligan, particularly during their first meeting at Nick's house. Similarly, Edgerton brings unexpected emotional depth to Tom, a character who could easily be portrayed as the film's villain, while newcomer Elizabeth Debicki displays startling screen presence as golfing star Jordan Baker, a glamorous friend of Daisy's who takes Nick under her wing. By contrast, Maguire is fine as Nick, but the film often struggles to reconcile his role as narrator with his place within each scene, so occasionally he's reduced to standing blankly on the edges.

This wouldn't be a Baz Luhrmann film without a certain amount of Gatsby-like excess and, true to form, the production design is utterly gorgeous throughout, marrying audacious visual effects (including colourised newsreel footage and digital recreations of 1920s New York overhead shots), stunning sets and jaw-dropping costume work. All of this is heightened by an exhilarating soundtrack from Jay-Z that provides a fresh take on a number of familiar songs and seamlessly incorporates them without them feeling incongruous or jarring.

The Great
Perhaps surprisingly, Luhrmann tells the story relatively straight, sticking closely to the language and rhythm of Fitzgerald's novel and practically fetishising the book's iconography (the giant pair of glasses on the billboard, the green light on Daisy's dock). That said, the sledgehammer script repeatedly overstates everything, spelling out key plot points over and over again in case you weren't paying attention at the back and eliminating any trace of the novel's subtlety.

On top of that, it's fair to say that Luhrmann occasionally gets carried away, with endless swooping overhead shots that come close to inducing motion sickness (especially in 3D) and an irritating tendency to cut repeatedly within scenes for no reason; one particularly awkward shot of Daisy, Gatsby and Nick is so over the top in this respect that it's almost laughable.

Worth seeing?
A handful of flaws aside, The Great Gatsby is a superbly acted, achingly stylish and emotionally engaging drama that won't disappoint fans of the novel. Highly recommended.



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Content updated: 15/12/2017 07:56

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