Like most ambitious pieces of grandeur (or expensive high art), The Great Gatsby is most likely to evoke polarised responses. You will love it or hate it. It’s unapologetic about its running time, 143 minutes. Long for a 3D romance drama with no Avatar-like action or Hugo-like adventure. Or so you would think!
Until Baz Luhrmann takes your breath away, with nothing but awe-inspiring spectacle and old-world beauty, in colours you would have never ever associated with the 1920s! Unlike Moulin Rouge, this is not even a riotous musical with energetic song and dance choreography... Yet, it enchants and captivates by its sheer audacity in recreating Long Island and the New York of 1920s, along with the fictional West Egg and East Egg and the decadent parties of the Jazz Age.
Recreating a French cabaret in a nightclub is one thing, but to recreate an entire era when colour film wasn’t even invented, that too in 3D, you need to be crazy! The world does take getting used to, and similar to Moulin Rouge, this epic story is told through a heartbroken, disillusioned writer. But where it departs from Moulin Rouge is that this is not the story of true love. It’s the story about the death of hope. It echoes the dysfunctional world of broken relationships that we live in.
While this is not the first movie adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, this is most likely to be the most definitive one, given that the copy of the oldest adaptation from the 1920s is lost and the 1974 film got mostly negative and mixed reviews (with Francis Ford Coppola who wrote the script distancing himself from the film saying it wasn’t the film he wrote).
The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann is a celebration of good old cinema and old fashioned romance, when filmmakers relied on nothing more than the onscreen persona of the stars, a cheesy love story involving separated lovers and corny writing to make a classic.
Di Caprio and Mulligan channel their personas to create movie magic, and you can’t ever take your eyes off them, even if Mulligan’s Daisy is shallow and flawed as a person. Joel Edgarton and Tobey Maguire provide rock solid support as Amitabh Bachchan chews up the scenery in a brief but effective cameo that would make you want to whistle!
And when you have charismatic actors such as Di Caprio who say lines like: “I knew that if I kissed her, I would be wed to her forever”, you know why you love the movies.
Baz takes all these elements but mounts it on his canvas, as an artist with an eye for colour and confetti, to tell us the story of the truly great Gatsby, the most hopeful man we will ever see in the movies for a long time.
As Nick Carraway sums up perfectly: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Genre: Romance/ drama
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgarton, Isla Fisher and Amitabh Bachchan
Storyline: A young writer who takes up selling bonds, meets the mysterious Gatsby, a millionaire known for his parties next door and gets involved in Gatsby’s romance with his cousin Daisy
Bottomline: Spectacular, grand literary epic brought alive, Baz style