The Great Gatsby

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Year Released: 2013
Rating: 2.5

Narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), in an asylum, recounts the tragic story of incredibly wealthy Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and, in particular, Gatsby's dodgy past, his nefarious money-making methods (bootlegging!) and his obsession/infatuation with Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who is in an unhappy marriage with cheating, "old money" Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Luhrmann, all too liberal with excess and gaudiness (Gatsby's house parties are like Broadway Extravaganzas), runs into the same issue adapting a classic American novel to the screen as Walter Salles did with Kerouac's On the Road: you can record the narrative and cast the characters and get some of the little details right and even sprinkle in some anachronistic details (modern music to drag in the younger crowd!), but can you capture the essence of the text itself, the power of a master writing what is inarguably one of the defining American novels of the 20th Century? The answer is a resounding No with a capital N, although my argument is that the effort is there: it's a noble failure. I did not personally find issue with the casting of either DiCaprio as the embodiment of the American Dream ending with a bullet or Maguire as his overwhelmed protégé, and though I may have cringed more than once at Luhrmann's extravagance (Lana Del Rey, Jay-Z, Gatsby throwing beautiful shirts on Daisy), there's no denying that Fitzgerald's text, even in bastardized form, has a timeless appeal: at the very least, it's leagues better than the inert 1974 Jack Clayton screen version of the book, which is borderline unwatchable.