Baz Luhrmann's lurid, 3-D take on F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby works despite itself. Jay Gatsby's doomed love for Daisy Buchanan is in danger of getting subsumed in the glitter of 1920s New York, which unravels in a montage of Charleston and chatter, but the film thankfully finds its soul just in time. The director of Moulin Rouge, in familiar territory as he painstakingly recreates the Jazz Age when mammon ruled the New York of lofty mansions and giddy parties, rescues his film to leave behind an aching loss of a love that was never to be.
It's a much-loved, much-discussed book. The enigmatic fabulously rich Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio, quite wonderful) who hosts heady parties and the callow Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) with her wealthy, not quite genteel and definitely racist husband Tom (Joel Edgerton). She lives in East Egg and he in West Egg across the bay hoping that she will one day waltz into one of his parties, fabled in all of New York. They were once in love but she gave up on him and got married instead. And he, now rich just for her, waits. And waits...
Watching from the sidelines is the silent Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), Daisy's cousin, through whose eyes the story unravels as he writes a book. Till the interval, their story seems almost lost as the director, it seems, concentrates all his efforts in setting the backdrop. The filming is loud, often over the top. Snowflakes coming at you through 3D, pearl necklaces flying in wild abandon, words from Nick's book floating in the air. In contrast is the dark, edgy world between the city and the affluent suburbs, the valley of ashes.
And then, just when I'd about given up finding the connect that I had been looking for, this gilded, conflicted world comes alive. The scene at Nick's cottage when a nervous Gatsby waits to meet Daisy after five years is very effective. Thanks in great measure to DiCaprio, whose jumpiness well almost jumps out - and not because of the 3D.
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