This film spins you through party-land and out the other side. If you want your moral compass twirled till dawn don’t hesitate to get yourself a ticket.
I hesitated. I did not want to go to a film based on a school exam text. The thought of Leonardo DiCaprio also put me off – something to do with sinking ships and delicate duets. If you show any similar symptoms stamp on them.
Australian director, Baz Luhrmann, has directed 143 minutes of dazzle and questions that should not be missed.
F Scott Fitzgerald’s novella, The Great Gatsby, was first published in 1925. The main characters take the stage during the American boom that followed the Great War – the Jazz Age. There is money and alcohol in abundance and there is ‘society’ – Long Island society.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Macguire), an ambitious, penniless, young man, has come to join this world. At heart he is a writer but has determined to make his fortune as a bond trader. He decides to settle close to his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) who has married money – polo-playing Tom Buchanan’s money. Buchanan is played by Joel Edgerton. He is hard and fast and his family have been used to luxury for a while. Across the bay from them lives a newcomer – Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Buchanan and Gatsby are introduced to us through the company they keep. Buchanan’s parties are private and alcohol-fuelled. Gatsby’s are lavish, awash with drink and invitation-free. Gradually the two worlds are brought together, not through big parties as Gatsby had hoped, but through Gatsby’s own developing acquaintance with his penniless neighbour Carraway.
Carraway has what Gatsby wants – access to Daisy, Buchanan’s wife.
Luhrmann electrifies this story with a soundtrack by Jay-Z and others. This is the soundtrack of money – it’s wild and golden, pushed higher by the bleak Valley of Ashes through which the players must pass to their parties. The music takes us to impossible places and then makes them believable through DiCaprio’s vivid frustration and anxieties and Macguire’s wide-eyed commentary.
I am told, by those sitting exams on the text, that this film delivers the book and that they enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t? It has story and pace, and feasts the senses.
Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan gave India its ‘slum dog’ – Baz Luhrmann has given Long Island its ‘old sport’.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018