<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Baz Luhrmann. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Amitabh Bachchan
The critics are divided but the audiences seem to love it. And I must say I was enthralled at the vivacious, ostentatious and delicious visual delights that The Great Gatsby had on display.
Australian director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet) is known for his penchant for musicals, for showmanship and all that razzle-dazzle. And he delivers this in champagne bucket loads in this new adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel by the same name.
Now I haven’t seen any of the previous versions of the book nor have I read the book so don’t worry if you haven’t either. Critics will quibble that this one doesn’t stay true to the book. Screw them, old boys. You get yourself a ticket and go watch this one. Here’s why:
Well for it’s sheer cinematic originality. You won’t see a film shot and directed in this way from any other director. Sure there’s lots of green screen and CGI in there but I’ll be a damned son-of-a-bitch if I could have spotted it in more than one scene. Sweeping shots of picture-perfect skylines and landscapes from way above, dramatic scenes in slo-mo, rambunctious parties full of glitter and spectacle but directed so finely that it makes you want to be invited to them rather than run away from them.
The mysterious Gatsby, played by the super talented Leonardo DiCaprio, owns the ‘party castle’ next to a more humble house engaged by Nick Carraway (yay, the real Spider-Man is back: Tobey Maguire) whose lovely cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) lives across the bay with her wealthy ‘polo-playing’ husband Tom (Joel Edgerton).
Very soon the audience and the narrator, Nick, find out the reasons (well, some of them) for Gatsby’s stealthy behaviour and his orgiastic parties that are open to all. Nick becomes Gatsby’s confidante and friend but of course there’s a lot more to it all in this film full of intrigue, affairs, attractions, power, depravity and recklessness.
Yes it’s a love story but not the kind you’d expect. In fact, some have complained that there’s not much that convinces us of an undying love here but that’s the beauty of it all. Each character concerns you, the mystery rivets you and the visuals expound the emotions brilliantly. In fact, I found the friendship between Nick and Gatsby to be the stronger relationship angle.
And Luhrmann has mixed things up a bit by using modern day songs by Beyoncé, Fergie, will.I.am and Jay-Z with a bit of a twist that fit in dreamily.
Leonardo DaVinci… oops DiCaprio I mean – the man is so inventive with his characters and such a genius – pulls off the period dress and dialogue with the flair of a champion racehorse at the Derby. I’ve always liked Tobey Maguire and here too his innocent charm and sincere eyes win you over to listen to his tale of love, loathing and neglect. Joel Edgerton as the philandering yet jealous husband of Gatsby’s love interest Daisy puts on a strong performance indeed. Carey Mulligan’s Daisy is a lot more subdued and largely ignored character.
And what of India’s topmost Bollywood star, the Big B, the AB Daddy-O? Well Amitabh Bachchan plays a man who is supposed to be in control of the seedy underbelly that made for the roaring 20s. But that’s more implied than in practise. His screen time is a grand total of 3 minutes! I can only guess that he was honoured to be in the film or they edited some of his other scenes out of the movie. Either way, Anupam Kher’s turn in the overhyped Silver Linings Playbook was far chunkier and more noteworthy.
The Great Gatsby is outrageously paced in the first half but that is just like an adrenalin shot you get high on. The second half gives you a pleasant breather to enjoy the low and savour some heady emotion and high drama. Go watch the film that opened the 66th Cannes Film Festival and be dazzled, old sport!
PS: You may ask like many why this film needed to be shot in 3D and if you do you’ll think yourself a damned fool after watching it… in 3D only!