Copyright © 2013 by Warner Bros. Pictures
From the 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it chronicles the life of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his undying love to the woman he met five years ago, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). Due to circumstances, the couple is separated and Daisy eventually marries Tom (Joel Edgerton). More resolute than ever, Gatsby regularly throws extravagant parties hoping to meet her again. With the help of his new neighbour, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), they are reunited but the happy occasion is short-lived when tragedy strikes.
“It’s perfect. From your perfect irresistible imagination”, says a playful Mrs Buchanan to Mr Gatsby of his lavish and elaborate parties. It also sums up quite aptly about Baz Luhrmann’s stylised influences on his latest production. Only a Luhrmann can put grandiose and grounded into the same sentence. The successful experimentations that married the new and the old are the contemporary versions of ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (another DiCaprio starrer) and ‘Moulin Rouge!’, a musical set in 1899, Paris to a collage of radio-friendly tunes.
The latter was nominated for a staggering eight Academy Awards including ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ for Nicole Kidman. Those winning sensibilities are repeated here but the camp may prove too much for fans who prefer a more subdued approach. This latest remake suffers from another bout of overstuffing the viewers with frivolous antics of the rich and famous and their ‘pitiful’ lives while overlooking the book’s view on social status and racial (in)tolerance. The leads’ shenanigans and bad decisions do feel tiresome after a while.
However, it sheds some light on the eroding morality from the corruption of wealth with aplomb. I could not care less of the Buchanans’ hypocrisy and infidelity if they did not come in the form of Mulligan and Edgerton, two rising stars we hope will endure in an industry not known for longevity. Mulligan’s vulnerability and sincerity are the biggest attributes used in conveying the conflicted and weak Daisy while Edgerton’s commitment to character as the philandering husband is so repulsively good, it even upstages DiCaprio’s bravura feat.
And brilliance is what he brings every single time. The camera sure loves a man dressed in his finest (Gatsby’s first facial close-up to the climax of George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is a great introduction to this suave and usually cool entrepreneur with a mysterious past). Channeling the best of Clark Gable and Cary Grant, DiCaprio’s interpretation is the definitive catch women all over will clamour for. His earnestness and loyalty to his former flame add on to the growing list in his ‘wow’ factor; a surreal return to more romantic fare.
A film of such distinct style would not be complete without the caliber comprising Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn, the Oscar-winning team for the ‘Best Production Design’ and Martin’s sole winning costume designs. The details are simply exquisite and vibrant – well supplemented to Jay-Z’s executive produced-hit soundtrack. The fusion of dance, pop, soul and rock into the sound of the Roaring 1920s set for a rollicking good time. Though it may be a case of style over substance, the sprawling picture has at least regenerated an interest in the novel and started a fashion frenzy among the uninitiated.
Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language