Director shows no restraint in imagining 'Great Gatsby'

By Kevin VaughnMay 16, 2013 

Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" is pretty faithful to the book, with one jarring difference. Nick (Tobey McGuire), friend to Gatsby and the narrator of the story, recounts the tale from the discomfort of a mental institution.

"The Great Gatsby" is the story of a poor soldier named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) who falls in love with a society girl named Daisy (Carey Mulligan).

He is convinced that he is unworthy of Daisy's hand until he amasses a small fortune. So he ships off to war, and Daisy finds a husband.

The empire Gatsby creates amasses no small fortune; he becomes a sensational millionaire and leads a lifestyle that bleeds extravagance, even by Roaring Twenties definitions.

On paper it sounds like a long first act, but Luhrmann starts the film sprinting, setting it up quickly through "Citizen Kane"-style newspaper headlines and party montages.

Luhrmann did the 1996 "Romeo + Juliet," the manic and color breath of fresh air to Shakespeare. It was five years before he pumped out another film, the ambitiously gorgeous "Moulin Rouge!" The tone of both films were played just right; the films feel young and exciting. Here, the Luhrmann techniques feel absolutely insane. He spices his film with a modern hip-hop, which feels strange and grows into completely misguided.

He also returns to work with DiCaprio, who is dark and dapper. But we don't quite understand his fatal fascination with Daisy, who does little more than sulk and complain. And Tobey McGuire, who is approaching 40, is grossly miscast, the naivety is hardly believable.

For all the glitz and glamour, for all the fantastic party scenes, dreamy costuming and enormous sets, the movie is oddly over-inspired and flat.

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