Review: The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) adapts F. Scott Fitzgerald’s romantic masterpiece set in New York in the spring of 1922 – an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Isla Fisher and Joel Edgerton.

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Like an ever-so-slightly more literary Transformers sequel, Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby is a sense-shattering storm of lush imagery, beautiful people and other aesthetic wonders. It’s the modern blockbuster as classic book adaptation. I had a ball watching it, but the impact is fleeting and the emotions shallow. Like Transformers.

By replacing giant robots and explosions with luxurious mansions, dazzling costumes and immaculate make-up, The Great Gatsby invites an air of superficial respectability that is perhaps reflected in its lead character – a distortion of the American Dream who built up his fortune with ill-gotten gains.

DiCaprio is well-suited (literally!) to the part – he’s finally starting to leave behind the boyishness that has always threatened his believability as a grown-up. As Jay Gatsby, he cuts a fine figure, but the deeply felt obsession at the heart of his character doesn’t totally shine through.

Tobey Maguire acquits himself with dignity as the audience’s somewhat blank proxy and Carey Mulligan oozes sensuality, almost to the point where I was willing to forgive her character’s transgressions. The most impressive performance in the film is given by Aussie Joel Edgerton, wholly convincing as a rich entitled jerk.

But it’s the filmmaking that is the true star here, and while it never stops calling attention to itself, it’s still a wonder to behold – I haven’t felt this drunk on cinematic beauty since Life of Pi.