The Great Gatsby (2013): Baz Luhrmann's monumental adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's magnum opus

Maguire, DiCaprio & Mulligan pack a punch in Luhrmann's tragedy 

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The Great Gatsby, Directed by Baz Luhrmann
The Great  Gatsby (2013) By Baz Luhrmann
Our Rating: 8.0
IMDb Ratings: 7.4
GenreDrama | Romance
CastLeonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan
Country: Australia | USA
Language: English
Runtime: 143 min
Color: Color

Summary: An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway is lured into the lavish world of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby's nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await.
The Great Gatsby is a 2013 drama film directed by Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. The movie's screenplay is co-written by Craig Pearce and Luhrmann himself. Based on a 1925 novel of the same name by the great American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton in pivotal roles. The novel, widely regarded as Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, has over the years inspired a number of film and television adaptations—the most famous being the 1974 adaptation directed by Jack Clayton, based on a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Robert Redford.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald’s novel is best remembered for its hallucinatory portrayal of the Jazz Age through the microcosmic world of glittery opulence kaleidoscopically enveloping the extravagant but hollow way of living that underlines the ethos of the American Dream. Fitzgerald's scurrilous satire on the zeitgeist of the tumultous 1920s, The Great Gatsby explores several conflicting motifs like love, materialism, sacrifice, self-indulgence, extravagance, idealism, stagnation, upheaval, ostentation, modesty, etc. And Luhrmann’s movie, to its credit, succeeds in capturing the novel's motifs in essence, if not in totality. Luhrmann and team not only bring to life the fictional town of West Egg in all its glory but also triumphs in bringing to the fore the eternal struggle between the pedigreed rich and those who have attained the riches newly, the so called parvenus of the society, for wealth, power and supremacy in a fast changing world.

Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby presents the tale of a young, enigmatic, seemingly profligate millionaire named Jay Gatsby whose ideals of love come across to be so virtuous and pristine that they seem to be modeled upon none other than Don Quixote himself. The story of Gatsby is presented in form of flashbacks as narrated by a Yale graduate and World War I veteran named Nick Carraway who is being treated for alcoholism in a sanitarium following an interlude in the town of West Egg. Carraway spins his yarn like an adept storyteller describing how his life gets entwined with that of Gatsby’s upon his arrival in West Egg. How he is wooed by the razzmatazz of Gatsby's resplendent world. How he drops his guard and lets himself be drawn in and acted upon by forces outside his influence. How he is overwhelmed by one man’s extraordinary capacity for hope. How he becomes a witness to the last speck of sanity in a world governed by the insane. How he gets disillusioned and decides to leave the superficial world he once was in awe of.

Veteran Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan as Meyer Wolfsheim, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Amitabh Bachchan (extreme left) in The Great Gatsby
Luhrmann’s movie, a monumental adaptation of Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, apart from being a fine critique on moral and social decadence of the Western world also serves to be a great modern tragedy in the vein of Gone With the Wind (1939), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1958), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Scarface (1983). But, unlike the aforementioned masterworks of cinema, The Great Gatsby is marred by its poor pacing. Luhrmann clearly appears to have missed a trick. First he uses almost half of the movie’s runtime to setup the plot, and just when the movie finally seems to be approaching what would have been an epic finale, he strangely orchestrates an abrupt ending. Like many of his contemporaries, Luhrmann too gets caught in a major dilemma while dealing with the formidable task of adapting an epic work of literature: Whether to make a 3-hour epic to fulfill one’s creative responsibility or a 2-hour blockbuster to suit the commercial requirements?

Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Carey Mulligan (right) as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby
Overall, The Great Gatsby despite its flaws proves to be an unforgettable cinematic experience for an intelligent viewer. The Great Gatsby, being the quintessential Luhrmann extravaganza, is quite high on style but fortunately there’s enough substance to keep a keen-eyed viewer interested throughout. Fitzgerald’s masterful storytelling seems to gel quite well with Luhrmann’s showmanship. The manner in which the movie blends elements of drama, suspense, romance and tragedy is indeed exemplary. Simon Duggan’s breathtaking cinematography brings the movie to life. Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Carey Mulligan are brilliant in their respective roles and in that order. The role of Nick Carraway seems to have given Maguire’s career a new lease of life. DiCaprio is solid as ever in a role that only he (among the current breed of A-list Hollywood actors) could have played. And Mulligan is both delightful and frightening to watch in her glacial portrayal of Daisy Buchanan. Veteran Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan looks fiendishly delectable in his cameo performance, which also marks his Hollywood debut. The Great Gatsby is neither a typical Hollywood product nor an art house movie. It is for this reason it is difficult to categorize as a film. And perhaps that’s why it opened to mixed reviews in Cannes early this year. If anything it’s a movie that requires patience and would most definitely satisfy the cravings of the patient lot.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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  1. It's always hard to create an artistic film and fulfill the needs of a blockbuster for a studio. It sounds like Luhrmann got close. A very thoughtful review Murtaza.

  2. Indeed, he did come close... and I was thoroughly impressed with what he managed to achieve with the movie. I am really glad you liked the review!!! :-)


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