If you read my book review on the same title, you will know that despite my unusual start to The Great Gatsby I enjoyed it immensely. The film however, is a different kettle of fish.
When I heard that Leonardo DiCaprio would play the enigmatic and tragic romantic, I was excited. Here is someone who can live up to the impossibly high billing of playing an American icon: he is a great actor, and looks the part. Then I heard that Baz Luhrmann was the Director and I became slightly more cautious. My only experience of Luhrmann prior to this was Romeo and Juliet, and though rather taken aback, I enjoyed it for what it was. But this did not fill me with confidence; I wasn’t sure that his brand of over-the-top indulgence would capture the subtle and darker undertones of the book: I thought it might be a bit too Louie Spence.
However, I went in with an open-mind, aware that it might have to be taken as one-man’s interpretation. I won’t beat around the bush: I hated the first half hour or so. I am not a Toby Maguire fan, I accept that for certain roles he is perfect, but Nick Carraway is not one of them. Nick is supposed to be his own man, with his own life, and this does not come across. Maguire is simply too wet for words. I spent the opening section of the film, and there is frankly no other way to put this, bored. I was praying desperately for the arrival of Gatsby, I needed saving: if I didn’t know DiCaprio was on the way (and if I hadn’t paid for the pleasure of viewing) I would have turned it off.
But, to my delight, I was saved. DiCaprio is great and really elevates the entire film. You are captivated by him, as you should be, and it must be how Nick felt in the book. But sadly this only served to highlight the contrast between DiCaprio and the rest of the film. The car scenes are nothing short of lame and I don’t have the feintest idea what was being tried to achieve with them.
However, I can see why people liked the flash party scenes and the extravagance of the Jazz age, as a spectacle, the film was pretty good. But for me, I will always be disappointed. Gatsby is about more than just the glitz and glam, and as I feared, the film almost entirely missed the point.
In short, The Great Gatsby is like a disappointing dinner: the main is great, but the starter and dessert aren’t up to scratch. You need it all to have a truly great experience.