“Bright things seem to fade so fast…they don’t come back.”
This film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, and Carey Mulligan. Director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) matches the glitz and glamour perfectly with the societal themes and undertones while the secret and earnest motivations of Jay Gatsby slowly reveal a poignant overall theme throughout the two hour and 23 minute running time.
Set in Set on Long Island and New York City during summertime in 1922, Nick Carraway (Maguire), looks to get his piece of the pie the stock market boom, but quickly spends his time around the activities of his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), and his cousin, Daisy (Mulligan).
Important figures in Gatsby’s life include Meyer Wolfsheim, played by famous Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan, and Dan Cody, played by Steve Bisley. Mulligan’s role as Daisy provides the centerpiece in this imaginative universe. Her place in this society limits her potential as her self-proclaimed cynical point-of-view help define female roles, especially during a sequence where she discusses her young daughter’s future prospects with Nick.
Elizabeth Debicki is perfectly cast in her star making role as Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker while Joel Edgerton plays Tom Buchanan – Daisy’s husband and Nick’s classmate who relishes in his financial success, which he tries to shape his persona with instead of his notoriety as a polo player. Gatsby’s more imaginative success and mysterious origins makes a perfect rival for Tom while more past circumstances reveal more potential drama and tension between them. Jason Clarke and Isla Fisher play George and Myrtle Wilson who are closely entwined in New York high society even though they do not live there and provide great performances during one of the film’s most tragic sequences.
The actors serve an overall purpose faithful to the characters where the ebbing story is not overshadowed by their personas. Each character lets the audience identify with a society full of hope that eventually ends up hollow without any substance and will to sustain itself. As in society, the characters choose what’s important in the world as high society. Themes of racial inequality, prohibition, and economic excess rise up as the film entertains and teaches about society as Luhrmann uses long swipes of the camera to brush across the urban landscapes. “None of us contributed to anything new,” says Nick who also provides key narration throughout the film.
Luhrmann stages some great comic moments as well especially during a tea party while the party scenes make audiences feel exactly as they should – great to look at, but no lasting purpose or benefit for the participants. The musical soundtrack mixes classic songs and modern anthems featuring musicians like Louis Armstrong, Jay-Z, Beyonce Knowles, Andre Benjamin, Fergie, will.i.am, and Lana Del Rey with the score from Craig Armstrong. Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.