The Great Gatsby

Year: 2013
Production Co: Bazmark Productions
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Producer: Baz Luhrmann
Writer: Baz Luhrmann/Chris Pearce/F Scott Fitzgerald
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Adelaide Clemens, Steve Bisley, Vince Colosimo, Max Cullen, Jack Thompson, Isla Fisher, Barry Otto, Gemma Ward

Baz Luhrmann shows great restraint in this quiet little story about a... no, just kidding. It's like he, wife/costumer Catherine Martin, their cinematographer, set designer and production designer snorted so much coke it was falling our of their eyeballs when he yelled 'action'.

If Luhrmann wasn't married I'd be certain he was gay. He's a consummate showman and loves nothing more than a spectacle laced with flowers, fireworks, champagne, decadence, sex appeal and celebration. In hindsight, the story of a rich man trying to get his lost love back was tailor made for his brand of filmmaking.

As to whether the film finally did the novel justice (after several versions are said to have failed to do so), I'll leave it to literary scholars who know much more about Fitzgerald's work than I do – I gave up on the book a third of the way in.

In the roaring 1920s when American society was first learning excess and riches, stockbroker Nick Carroway (Maguire, no less stiff and froglike than he ever is) moves into a tiny cottage on a fictional New York island to work and study in the city and try to make it in the finance industry.

But he's soon distracted by the lavish parties that take place in the palatial mansion next door, attended by both the crème de la crème and the scourge of New York society. Thanks to the riotous times going on, the man of the house – Jay Gatbsy – takes on mythic proportions before Nick finally gets to meet him.

While he's ingratiated into Gatsby's world of underground speakeasies, fine tailoring, his banana-yellow jalopy and the businessman benfactor of dubious industry Gatsby introduces him to, Nick tries to take it all in.

But Jay has an ulterior motive. He's still in love with Nick's cousin, the winsome Daisy (Mulligan, perfect to play a fun-loving, flapper-era wastrel) after the two had a brief affair years before. Gatsby gave her up because of the secrets about himself he had to protect, and now he's ammassed his fortune he's ready to take her back.

The problem is Daisy is now married to the brutish industrialist Tom Buchanan (Edgerton), who it seems can make all sorts of trouble for both Nick and Jay – even if it's a broken nose.

Nick is swept up into the romantic quadrangle, Tom himself maintaining a bit of crumpet on the side in Myrtle (Fisher), who lives in the poverty-stricken coal-lands between the island and city.

Here's the problem with The Great Gatsby. Even though I'm not familiar with the book, I'm sure there's a disconnect between it and the movie. The reasons Luhrmann was attracted to it – the huge gay parties, the silk tuxes, the glitz and glamour – are probably completely different to what Fitzgerald was trying to say. Sure, the story is the crossroads where they both meet, and this is Luhrmann's version, so it can be argued it doesn't matter what Fitzgerald's intentions were.

But even though it's a small story about people trying to get what they want in matters of the heart, we're watching more fireworks set off into the New York night than probably existed in the whole of America in 1922 at every opportunity, and the presentation feels just too disconnected from the tale of star cross'd lovers.

That said, Luhrmann knows how to fill a screen with a riot of colour and movement, and the capturing of a past age – even a fantasy one gilded in rainbows and unicorns – is a talent in itself.

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