The 1925 novel The Great Gatsby told the story of the folly of youth and the decadence of the roaring twenties. The Great Gatsby is a visually appealing movie but there is not much that makes you really feel like you are in the actual 1920s. The acting is very good but the story is so much like the book that it comes off dry and fairly dull.
Nick Caraway, played by Tobey Maguire, is narrating the story of how he ended up in a sanitarium. He tells his doctor of starting out as a stockbroker in 1920s New York. He is living in Long Island next door to Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a man who throws lavish parties. Who is Gatsby? What makes him such a mystery?
The Great Gatsby has a lot of visually interesting effects. Like other Baz Luhrmann projects, the film is colorful and bombastic. The one thing that takes me out of the movie is the use of modern music; hip-hop remixes in a 1920s setting. It’s not very often, but when it does happen it is sometimes as jarring as seeing a fighter jet on the screen of a spaghetti western.
The acting is very decent. Leonardo DiCaprio is a very good Gatsby. He plays the role with a winning smile and a lot of charm. When it comes to the romance between himself and Daisy his desperate goals are all over his face. Tobey Maguire does good job acting vulnerable in his role as Caraway. He is believable as the pained narrator who lost hope in human good with the loss of Gatsby.
The story itself is fairly slow. It is not a great romance and the material is nothing that would appeal to most people save English majors. It is a pretty movie and the people who are major characters give it a performance that is worth seeing. There are few tense scenes such as when the characters have a very tense confrontation at the Plaza Hotel over relationship issues. However, there are some minor actors that go wildly over the top and don’t add any realism to the movie. For example, the partygoers and Gatsby’s musicians are almost 1920s caricatures that when contrasted to the main characters seem very out of place. Still for the moments of goofy stylization the theme gets the point across so it has at least achieved that goal.
The Great Gatsby is not the most entertaining movie I’ve seen this year. When it comes to 1920s fiction I prefer Boardwalk Empire, which shows that with the big parties and decadent times of the Jazz Age came massive amounts of crime. If you were a fan of the book or the stars of this film I’d recommend renting it perhaps or seeing it at a matinee. The movie probably should have been called The Good Gatsby and it would have been a bit more accurate.