Written by / 5/10/2013 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

LEO DiCAPRIO IN THE 2013 ADAPTATION OF THE GREAT GATSBY

year: 2013 rating: *
There’s a humorously subtle moment towards the end of THE GREAT GATSBY when, after the title character erupts in a jealousy-driven tantrum, our humble narrator, Nick Carraway, played by a fitfully cast Tobey Maguire, forgets it’s his thirtieth birthday. Too bad because Carraway makes for a worthy pawn/middleman in a complicated love triangle, and eventually the audience forgets about him as well...

No surprise as the story’s really about Jay Gatsby, who has tons of money, a giant mansion and parties to end all parties. The closer we get… or rather, the closer Nick Carraway gets … the more can be distinguished of a man who once seemed infallible. Turns out Jay’s got an immense crush on Daisy Buchanan, played by an underwhelming Carey Mulligan – she’s an apple of his eye and not without a worm.

That’s a cue for one of the more interesting characters and our sole antagonist: Joel Edgerton’s Tom, Daisy’s polo playing playboy husband, is liken to old school villains created solely to be hissed at (think Billy Zane in TITANIC). To manipulate a modern audience he’s given racist views, and at one point even disagrees that the sun is getting hotter. Either way, we know he’s not the right man for Daisy because, well, Gatsby loved her first.

ROMEO AND JULIET director Baz Luhrmann, no stranger to MTV style excess, brings the vibrant pulse of the roaring twenties to life – yet there’s not a genuine feeling we’re really in that era. Could it be the abundance of hip-hop and/or rave music playing while bodies flail and booze pours from endless champagne bottles? Or perhaps it’s the impressive but overall distracting 3D that gives F. Scott Fitzergerald’s human novel somewhat of a corny superhero vibe: Then again, Gatsby is a brooding millionaire whose power lies in his secrets, and vice versa.

Beneath all the glitz, within the bombastically colorful playground of high society, is a familiar tale – not much different than a high school romance – about a guy who loves a girl he can’t get. It’s that simple. And perhaps the novel’s brilliant writing made up for the fact there’s more theme than plot running through those timeless pages. Yet on the big screen, once the party’s over and we’re left with two otherwise classy men competing like Neanderthals for the love of a vulnerable woman, it’s a downhill climb.

Leonardo DiCaprio takes a little getting used to in the title role. He’s not really large enough a presence to fill the shoes of such a famous literary icon. But his melancholy expressions of a loveless soul make up for the initial letdown of seeing him for the first time after the grandiose build-up of his character. Beneath the layers, either shown in flashbacks or described incessantly by an awestruck Carraway, DiCaprio, always attempting to challenge himself with eclectic roles, gives Gatsby a genuine aura that unfortunately this big budget, special effects driven extravaganza takes away from.
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