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Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

Baz Lurhman’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is a glitter-filled glimpse into the shallow world of 1920s New York.

A review of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, from the opening sequence until the finale, is undoubtedly a Baz Luhrmann film. Luhrmann’s signature style oozes from every scene, with all its glitz, glamour and gusto.

An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby is the story of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a naïve Midwesterner who moves to Long Island. Soon after his arrival, Carraway is befriended by his elusive neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a wealthy eccentric with a penchant for wild parties who happens to be in love with Carraway’s married cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). After enjoying the lavish and frivolous lifestyle offered to him by Gatsby, it’s not long before Carraway begins to see the cracks in Gatsby’s perfect existence.

The Great Gatsby is like one huge party from start to finish. It is absolutely jam-packed with stars, right down to the modernised soundtrack (a Lurhmann standard) that features Jay-Z, Florence and the Machine and Lana Del Rey. Although not one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s most challenging or groundbreaking roles, he is the star of the show alongside Carey Mulligan’s brilliant portrayal of Daisy Buchanan, a woman superficial to the very core. Meanwhile, Tobey Maguire, with his typical wide-eyed naivety, is really a non-character. Nick Carraway seems to be little more than a plot mechanism to bring the other characters together and keep the momentum going with the help of some cheesy narration.

With such a talented cast, it is a shame that Lurhmann didn’t abandon a little of the needless glitz to focus more on the characters and their complexities. DiCaprio, arguably one the greatest actors in Hollywood at the moment, was wasted in this film; his acting ability exceeds the demands of the role by miles. Perhaps to distract from the film’s lack of depth, Lurhmann goes heavy on the style. The swanky lifestyle of the Long Island elite is echoed in the vibrancy and spectacle of every shot, and the excessive use of sweeping slow-motion and stylish editing; not to mention the pointless use of 3D.

Gatsby is really a story about attainment – Jay Gatsby has devoted most of his life to attaining status and wealth, to the extent that the grit of 1920s New York is reduced to a blur as he speeds past in his bright yellow motor-car on route to the next exclusive party. The downfall of the film is that Lurhmann may have taken this superficiality too seriously – so much so that the film is lacking in depth and, in the end, it is difficult to feel much for any of the characters. Lurhmann’s Gatsby may be energetic, colourful and fun; but essentially it is a shallow film about shallow people.

  • The colourful opening sequence, and one of the best on-screen parties ever.
  • Lurhmann’s waste of a great actor – DiCaprio was meant for more challenging roles.

Discussion feed

  • Hey Sam! I can't attach a feature picture to this post, is it something to do with my permission access on the new system? Best, Tom
  • Hey Sam, it's the new system, I'm just trying it out for my latest podcast episode with Greg Lucey and I'm trying to attach a picture - it uploads the picture and then says I don't have permission to attach it :(
  • Hi Tom, I'll look into this today. I think I already know what the issue is. It's because the media being uploaded is not associating itself to a post ID. Thank you for being my test dummy. At least this creation dialogue is working!!!
  • Hey Sam, I've tried again just now still the same issues I'm afraid :( I'd also look at the text editor I'm not sure if the texted/front is properly formatting at the moment (there's big gapes in the spacing, front size). If you want to jump around inside my draft and see what's what please do! I think I am going to use the legacy editor to upload today, but we can work  on testing and refining the new editor together :) Best, Tom

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