The Great Gatsby
Fast, opulent, hedonistic, sparkling, daze-inducing: in a word, spectacular. This, and more, is what New York looks like during the Roaring Twenties, when everything seems not only possible but even at your fingertips. This is what Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) discovers as soon as he arrives into town. Soon sucked into the kaleidoscopic carnival, Nick is simultaneously repulsed and fascinated.
The story of The Great Gatsby, an adaptation of Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, follows the intricate vicissitudes of a group of people who at first don’t seem to have much in common other than their wealth. Nick acts as confidant, witness and reporter, playing a key role, whether he likes it or not, in the lives of those he learns to know, little by little.
A Russian roulette, an amusement park, a vortex of sex, drugs and jazz – this is a world that is loud, intoxicating and care free. Yet, as soon as the veneer is scratched away, a very different state of affairs is revealed: secrets, lies, vices, scandals, corruption are what really dominate. We understand, by means of coups de théâtre, that there is always more than meets the eye.
Nick Carraway is just the right (or wrong, depending on how we choose to look at it) man at the right (or wrong) time. Like a puppet master, he more or less consciously pulls the strings in the lives of his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom, and of course, Jay Gatsby. The excesses are replaced with highly intense, melodramatic scenes of melancholy, passion, regret, hope and revenge. Love is the ultimate feeling, in its every aspect, and it’s the motor that drives everything.
Baz Luhrmann’s visionary rendition of the famous novel couldn’t be any more predictable if we consider its precedents (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!). The Great Gatsby is a similar visual blast, an explosion of colours and sounds – at times too much to take. Many effects are unnecessary and irrelevant. The photography, when authentic, is exceptional and all the actors give powerful performances. Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan is moving in her delicate, naïve frailty and Leonardo DiCaprio makes yet another leap forward, re-asserting his ability to portray genuine emotion.
A special mention goes to the film soundtrack, for which Luhrmann employs artists such as Beyoncé, The XX, Florence + The Machine and Bryan Ferry to compose songs capturing the spirit of the 20s, delivered in a contemporary key. The combination epitomises the film: dazzling, idiosyncratic, awkward…Luhrmann-style.
The Great Gatsby is released nationwide on 16th May 2013.
Watch a featurette about The Great Gatsby’s soundtrack here: