The Great Gatsby review

Mr DiCaprio is perfect casting for the role of enigmatic millionaire Jay Gatsby. His movie star charisma is at its brightest and he is simply superb as the single-mindedly determined romantic, acquiring a huge fortune and huge mansion, throwing raucous parties every week, all to attract his lost love Daisy (Mulligan), who lives across the river in her own vastly gilded abode as wife to brutish Tom Buchanan (Edgerton). DiCaprio has the magnetism and mystery that's required but is also unafraid to portray the overt romanticism the role needs. And when he bursts into a fit of anger, after being goaded by Tom, he can portray the underlying mad passion with aplomb. It's one of his best performances and he seizes the character full throttle. Compare him to Robert Redford in the 1974 version (a movie I admire) and DiCaprio walks away with it. Redford was very good but he gave an inward interpretation of the role. He was too sombre in a overly sombre film. DiCaprio soars, taking his cue from the unapologetic energy of Luhrmann's direction.

This is not a Gatsby for purists. The lavish party scenes of the first half are conducted with the director's distinctive flair. The camera darts and swoops among the Jazz Age revellers as they dance to modern pop tracks. We're back in Moulin Rouge territory. This is not as off-putting as you'd think, however. It makes the tale accessible and the songs are well chosen. The cinematography is glorious and the 3D work adds to the stylised staging. When the narrative kicks in, the scenes are long and slow, but by this time we've become accustomed to the glitzy visuals and are thoroughly absorbed in the proceedings.

The strong acting keeps us involved. Edgerton gives a good account of himself as bull- headed Tom. It's not a subtle turn by any means but then who the hell looks for subtlety in a Baz Luhrmann film? Maguire is very fine too as our narrator and Gatsby's neighbour Nick Carraway. He registers the right amount of idealism and is relaxed and unforced in depicting the slowly dawning cynicism that comes upon. He has more to do than Sam Waterston in the Redford version and makes a far greater impression. Mulligan unfortunately isn't so memorable as Daisy. She makes a good stab of the role but is not vivacious or dazzling enough to make us fully believe Gatsby's passion for her. It's but a small quibble, though.

This is a Gatsby for the 21st century. It's vivid and vibrant, in-your-face and stunning to look at. It will certainly divide opinion and there will be many sniffy naysayers but I for one love it. Surrender to its lush, unabashed romantic yearnings and you'll be swept up in a vigorous  and audacious telling that will leave you sated and satisfied. It's fab. Don't miss it.

The Great Gatsby at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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