Review: The Great Gatsby

great_gatsby_ver15The Great Gatsby

  • Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (Romeo & Juliet), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Tobey Maguire (Seabiscuit), Carey Mulligan (An Education) and more.
  • Directed by: Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge)
  • Synopsis: ““The Great Gatsby” follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.”
  • Rated: Rated PG-13 for mild language, violence and sexual content…all in brief doses
  • Must-Watch Trailer:
  • Review:

“I’m certainly glad to see you again.” -I imagine that’s what many fans of the F. Scott Fitzgerald book have to say to this latest adaptation of the well-known novel that has been a textbook read in numerous school English classes over the years. Having never read the book myself, I am told that Luhrmann’s film adheres pretty closely to the source, with, of course some liberties (namely even an slightly altered ending), thus leaving something for even Gatsby experts to be pleasantly (?) surprised by. Impressive in overall style, Luhrmann’s visually and musically stunning tribute to writers, playwrights, the “Roaring 20’s” and its ideals, unfortunatly, lacks when it comes to overall substance. Hit the jump to read more.

gatsby1Baz Luhrmann continues to display his affinity for tragic stories of forbidden love all the while showcasing his flair for unique visuals, period piece presentations and a broad mix of music to boot. Staying respectful to the source and the time period still, he impressively fuses a bit of the modern into this beautiful version full of blind ambition, loyalty, betrayal, love, happiness and tragedy. He definitely had his work cut out for him, stating:

“Fitzgerald loved the movies and was a passionate believer in the power of cinema. “The Great Gatsby” has been adapted for the screen no less than four times. Fitzgerald’s story defies time and geography. The vision and the goal of our remarkable cast and creatives is to do justice to the deftness of Fitzgerald’s telling, and illuminate its big ideas and humanity. This is our challenge and our adventure.”


Beginning with the narration of Gatsby’s tale via Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby plays out on screen exactly as I’d imagine the book to. The excellent performances by the entire cast make the characters come to life in a fashion that almost makes one forget who the actors are playing them and believe them to truly be the characters they portray. (I did say “almost” as something about Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire both still had me thinking that I had seen their characters before in another movie…say…Titanic or Romeo & Juliet or Spider-Man, etc -a minimal complaint).gatsby

Along with the fun music and mostly great visuals (there were moments in which the CGI background made the actors appear as if they were simply on a stage with a painted backdrop instead of actually on location), however, it is the cast that really ties this all together.GreatGatsby2012trlr_004Pyxurz

DiCaprio plays the victim of love, if you will, quite well. He should…he’s done it numerous times (for Luhrmann in Romeo & Juliet, for Cameron in Titanic, for Nolan in Inception, for Scorsese in Aviator or Shutter Island). To say that he isn’t proficient in his part would be as incorrect as saying he has shown a great amount of range in his characters over the years (with a few exceptions).The-Great-Gatsby_Movie-wallpaper

Still, DiCaprio doesn’t detract at all. He makes the character his own, as do all the additional castmembers (including Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki and more). The story tends to move at a rather slower pace, especially in the first half, and, while that may be appropriate for words on a page, it only comes across as a bit tedious and redundant onscreen.great-gatsby-isla-joel-tobey

A classic piece of literature should have an adaptation that plays a little bit better onscreen. While captivating character portrayals and visuals abound, the story does drag. As much of an appreciation for art, literature, music and special effects as it is an appreciation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, I still prefer Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge a bit more when it comes to a story of forbidden love, tragedy and one’s own fate on the canvas of beautiful visuals. I do think, however, that F. Scott Fitzgerald himself might be impressed the most with this version over previous adaptations of his now world-renowned and well-beloved tale “The Great Gatsby.”

The Great Gatsby is good…full of glitz and glamour…just not as great and grandiose all around as desired.

My Score: out of 5 stars for The Great Gatsby

(Remember, to read this review of mine and over 200 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies I have reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)


Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

T, The Focused Filmographer

up next: My review for MUD


    • Thank you for reading! This film was pretty, but I think what I’ve heard from fans of the book may still continue to be true…none of the movie adaptations stand up the level of the book. This seems to be a universal truth.

      surprisingly, the music and cast did work

      thank you for the comment. I hope you still enjoy the movie when you see it.


  1. May contain spoilers:

    I came away liking the movie a lot. I really haven’t watched a lot of DiCaprio’s movies, but I think he was an excellent Gatsby. He perfectly showed Gatsby’s cool venire is in fact very thin. Gatsby has been trained to say the right thing, but you see it in his eyes, body language and his little ticks, that he is not so cool. DiCaprio portrayed it perfectly. In fact all of the actors should be commended.

    One thing about the character development I did not like was I dont think they developed Jordan enough. She was kind of window dressing in this. She had a bigger role in the book.

    As for the art style, I love the period, and I think they did an excellent job with it. Its kind of like looking at the past through rose colored glasses. Which I think is layering Gatsby’s own wanting to repeat the past and Caraways naiveté.

    I was worried about the soundtrack; I love Jay-Z, I love New Orleans Jazz, but I didn’t think they would mix so well. The 1920’s and the double oughts we just lived through have a lot in common. And the music of both show a more care free, excess driven mentality. They were blended well together.

    The liberties taken with the book were not excessive in my eyes. I think they made parallels to Fitzgerald’s own life. And at 2.5 hours, I think they did an excellent job of getting all the pertinent parts of the book in.

    I dont think any movie will ever capture the essence of a book, they are two different ways to experience a story, and I think its a testimony to the book that no one can perfectly emulate what Fitzgerald is trying to say.

    I would easily give the movie a 9/10.

    P.S. I really wish we, as a society, dressed like that. Im tired of seeing pajamas in places of business!


    • thank you for the spoiler warning!

      Knowing that you recently finished the book I am glad to see that you liked the movie a lot. Many people have criticized DiCaprio’s Gatsby yet you call him perfect in the role. Good to know.

      I felt that Jordan was lacking too and am happy to hear she has a bigger part in the book.

      Isn’t neat how the music tended to really add to the film even though it isn’t from the time period? I was surprised, pleasantly.

      Thanks for the comment.

      and, P.S. I wish that we dressed like that more often as well. I’d love to get away from pajama shoppers. ha


  2. Hi, Terrence:

    ‘The Great Gatsby’ appears to be glitzy, opulent eye candy in the extreme. Though in characters, plot, soundtrack and overall story. The film is a mile wide and half an inch deep.


    • i am growing a bit tired of all the “style but little substance” movies that Hollywood insists on churning out. But there is hope. I can’t wait for you to see The Great Gatsby. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Perhaps a comparison review of it with previous adaptations? (I’d be willing to host it here)


  3. Hi T, I ended up giving it a slightly better rating than you but essentially we agree that there’s too much visual feast, but left our soul hungry.

    It’s interesting that even though Baz is happily married (at least I think he is), he has such a penchant for tragic stories of forbidden love. But then again, as far as forbidden love goes, this one lacks bite. Especially compared to Moulin Rouge!’s Christian and Satine.


  4. Totally agree with your review of the film. I think the movie was visually stunning (especially the party in Gatsby’s house) and would have been worth watching in 3D. However, outside of Gatsby himself, the characters seemed to lack depth… even more so when considering the film is an adaptation of a book. Ultimately I felt Gatsby was worth seeing but not watching.


  5. Will go to the UK next week and have booked a ticket to see it at the Electric Cinema. Looking forward to it as that cinema seems a good fit for the style of the movie (just google the cinema to see what I mean)


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