Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Great Gatsby
Mr. DiCaprio's turn in the title role is exceptional. The narrative transforms Gatsby from a mysterious, rarely seen tycoon into a vulnerable, tearful man in love; we feel like few other young actors today could have been as believable in this lead. Carey Mulligan does everything right in the role of Gatsby's love interest Daisy Buchanan, but unfortunately the camera doesn't study her the way it does her lover. Tobey McGuire plays Nick Carraway, the hopeful bonds broker who arrives in New York with wide eyes only to grow disgusted and disillusioned with the careless lifestyle of his Long Island neighbors; as in the novel, we are told the Gatsby story from Carraway's perspective, which legitimizes the first act's emphasis on shimmering revelry and drunken confusion but makes suspicious the second act's failure to adequately condemn the questionable attitudes and foolish actions of practically everyone Carraway meets before moving back west. For his part, McGuire's is a job well done but is not particularly notable. The same may be said of Elizabeth Debicki (as Jordan Baker, Daisy's flapper friend). Joel Edgerton is steady as a rock as Daisy's pompous, fillandering husband, Tom. A late scene at the famed Plaza Hotel in which he confronts Gatsby is very well done by all.
If you're not careful (we weren't!) you will have allowed Mr. Luhrmann to convince you--somewhere around the 90-minute mark--that everyone, except perhaps for the easy-to-hate Tom, will live happily ever after somehow. But even if you haven't read the novel you might guess that this can't end well. The times are too loose. Mr. Gatsby, a dreamer if ever there was one, is increasingly desperate. There is, in the end, "a haunting loneliness...young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life." And things haven't changed all that much. And we think--hope--that this is part of the film's message, with its modern 3D photography and hip-hop trappings: the follies of Mr. Fitzgerald's characters are follies suitable for any decade, any century.
Posted by Grant