Wednesday, May 29, 2013

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'THE GREAT GATSBY': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Director Baz Luhrmann's lavish adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic 1925 novel about a bond salesman who finds himself captivated by the life of his millionaire neighbor during the 'Roaring Twenties'. Leonardo DiCaprio (who also starred in Luhrmann's 'ROMEO + JULIET') and Tobey Maguire star in the film and it's their first time appearing in a movie together since 2001's 'DON'S PLUM' (despite being longtime friends since childhood). Carey Mulligan also stars in the movie as the millionaire's love interest, caught in a love triangle with another millionaire (played by Joel Edgerton). The film is a visually breathtaking epic period piece (like all of Luhrmann's films). It's also a tragedy (like most of Luhrmann's films as well). I enjoyed almost every aspect of the film except it's conclusion (having never read the book or known the story), which is just too dark and depressing for me.

Maguire plays Nick Carraway, an alcoholic (as the film opens) telling a man in a sanatorium his story about his times with a millionaire named Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). Nick met Gatsby when he moved into a house next door to his mansion in New York in 1922. A Yale University graduate and World War 1 veteran, Nick was moving from the Midwest to New York to take a job as a bond salesman. He met the mysterious millionaire when he was invited to one of his huge parties, despite the fact that no one else was ever invited to his parties (they would just show up) and no one seemed to know what Gatsby really looked like. Nick soon discovered that the millionaire wanted to get to know him so he could arrange a meeting with his cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan), who Gatsby had a romantic affair with five years earlier. Daisy was (at the time, in 1922) married to another millionaire though, Tom (Edgerton), who was an old college buddy of Nick's. This of course caused lots of complications as Gatsby wanted to steal Daisy away from Tom, who she had fallen out of love with anyway due to his constant cheating ways.

I'm a huge Baz Luhrmann fan. I've enjoyed all of his films, especially 'MOULIN ROUGE!' (which is my all time favorite musical and one of my all time favorite films). That's a tragedy, like almost all of Luhrmann's movies, but it's still a beautifully moving story that's end feels justified. Like I said I haven't read the source material for 'GATSBY' (so I don't know how well the story played out in the book) but here I was disappointed with the overall feel of the film (by it's conclusion). I loved all of the performances (especially DiCaprio, who's amazing in it), the look of the film, the music and the first two acts. I really did like the story of this mentally ill millionaire who built his fortune from nothing and is now willing to throw almost everything away for his love (and obsession) with this untrustworthy girl. Like I said I just didn't like it's conclusion. Luhrmann did write the screenplay (with his usual partner in crime Craig Pearce) so he's to blame for it's shortcomings as much as it's success. It is a visual masterpiece that's a good film but not a great one.