The latest movie adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" hits big screens this week, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the iconic title role. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
Depending on who you are, you either go into Baz Lurhmann's "The Great Gatsby" hoping that it's a reverent and faithful version of one of the most beloved novels of the 20th century, or you go in hoping that it's a swoony and over-the-top Baz Luhrmann mad ball, a kind of spiritual sequel to his famously supercharged pop opera, "Moulin Rouge!". As someone who thinks "Moulin Rouge!" is the great movie musical of our time, I was more than happy to let Luhrmann have his way with "The Great Gatsby".
Besides, does anyone, in all honesty, really want to see another painstakingly authentic version of Fitzgerald's Jazz Age classic of lost romantic dreams? The last time Hollywood tried its hand at this story, in the 1974 Robert Redford-Mia Farrow version, you could practically see the paint drying on the actors' faces. Lurhmann, if nothing else, avoids that trap. His film kicks off as a pinwheel of excess, a roaring-'20s orgy scored to a hip-hop beat.
The excess feels justified, at least to me. When Nick, our narrator-hero, played by the gawky but likable Tobey Maguire, moves into a cramped cottage on Long Island's West Egg, where he's befriended by his new neighbor, the reclusive golden-boy party host Jay Gatsby, it's important that we experience all of this champagne-and-Charleston revelry as the shock of the new. And Leonardo DiCaprio has the right touch of amiably sinister mystery as Gatsby, whom he plays like the young Orson Welles.
But all that supercharged Baz Lurhmann style turns out to be the icing on a pretty standard cake. When it comes to the tale of Gatsby, with his great fortune and mysterious hidden connections - Carey Mulligan's Daisy Buchanan, the young woman he’s loved from the moment he saw her; and her angry husband, Tom, played by Joel Edgerton - The Great Gatsby turns out to be like one of those Merchant-Ivory films in which the passions are all diagrammed, but not really felt. At its best, it's an eye-popping hot mess of a movie. Yet by the end, it leaves you cold.