I tried reading what everyone called one of the greatest American novels, The Great Gatsby but could not finish it. In fact I got bored. Call me crazy, but Fitzgerald’s language did not move me to continue reading past the first two chapters. I wanted to get it read before I saw the movie, but did not succeed. I have seen the movie though and must say I was highly impressed with Baz Luhrmann’s take on the 1920’s set saga of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) , Nick Carraway (Tobey McGuire), Daisy Buchannan (Carey Mulligan), and her boorish husband Tom (Joel Edgarton).
For those of you that were not forced to read the novel in high school or are familiar with the original film starring Robert Redford, Gatsby is about Nick Carraway, an aspiring writer who is the cousin of socialite Daisy Buchannan. He lives next door to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby who throws lavish parties every weekend and who unbeknownst to Nick had a love affair with Daisy, 5 years prior. Jay, as it turns out has been on a mission after getting out of the army to win Daisy back by becoming the sophisticated and wealthy man a woman of Daisy’s station deserves. Daisy in his absence married Tom Buchannan, an heir of one of America’s wealthiest families and who is cheating on her with the trashy wife of a gas station owner.
The movie starts off slow, but catches fire when Leo hits the screen. I loved him in the role of Gatsby and he brings the desperation and sadness needed to play a man wanting the love of his life back. Why Gatsby is so hell bent on Daisy is beyond me because she comes across as a flighty, shallow woman that just sits around her big mansion and sighs a lot. Gatsby pulls out all the stops to win back her love with Nick’s help. Nick is all too glad to assist Gatsby whose wealth and fabulous persona he is clearly fascinated with and knowing of Tom’s affair, he feels less inclined to stop Jay from pursuing Daisy.
A lot of people have criticized the hip hop influenced soundtrack (produced by Jay Z) and the gaudy opulence of the film, but that just adds to its appeal. It’s a tribute to the 20’s, the boozing, partying, and ridiculous decadence of that era. The hip hop soundtrack fits in well. The visuals and clothing were also excellent, and I think come awards season the film will be recognized in these two areas.
If you have seen The Great Gatsby, what was your take on the film? Does it rate as one of Leo’s best performances?