Movie Review: “The Great Gatsby”

Grade: D+

The Great Gatsby feels more like a Willy Wonka remake than a timeless American literary classic.

The original F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is a beautifully crafted period piece that captures and criticizes the glamorous 1920s Long Island society.

On the contrary, director Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby – the fifth film creation since the book’s release in 1925 – packs a puny punch. What was originally a unique perspective of the American dream comes off as a stale melodrama about rich, pretty people.

Instead of a Roaring Twenties inspired soundtrack, Luhmann tries to reinvigorate the American classic with modern music and inopportune cuts that give the audience a migraine.

Fitzgerald’s more famous quotes appear as overzealous CGI effects that only skim the surface of this metaphorical narrative.

It’s just a little inappropriate.

Some of the cast choices are inappropriate, as well. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby) has the smile of one of the most famous characters of all time, but his “old sport” line is forced Hollywood magic.

Lots of the landmark Fitzgerald lines come from Tobey MacGuire (Nicholas Harroway), but they feel like they’re coming from a contestant in a high school speech contest.

Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchanan) is an exception. Mulligan breathes life into the conflicted character of Daisy. Like they all should’ve been, Mulligan’s character is genuinely struggling and intriguing to watch.

You see, Mulligan picked up on something that the others did not.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Luhrmann said The Great Gatsby is a “love story.” Even a C-averaging high school student who uses SparkNotes knows it’s more than that.

Gatsby is an American literary classic because of its theme. It’s a metaphor for the changing tides of the 1920s – a theme poorly conveyed (if at all) by the film.

One of Gatsby’s partygoers says, “I like large parties. They’re so intimate.”

That’s sort of the fallacy behind this movie. It’s a big obnoxious party without any real substance.

What’s worse is that it’s under the guise of an American classic.