* * * ½
(The not that great Gatsby)
I studied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel in college and still have my book with underlined passages and footnotes. Clearly, “The Great Gatsby” makes a better read, with part of the dialogue being inside the characters’ heads. Previous attempts to translate the book to the screen, including the latest disaster filmed in Newport, have failed.
The latest attempt by director Baz Luhrmann comes closer to the novel and adds a plethora of special effects, gigantic party scenes, fireworks and glorious color. (You don’t need to see it in 3D to enjoy the magnitude of the production.)
Leonardo DiCaprio makes a great Jay Gatsby, with all his arrogance, deception and intensity. Tobey Maguire plays the inquisitive, sensitive, naive next-door neighbor Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan is a perfect Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s desire.
The movie opens with Nick telling his story to his psychiatrist, who convinces him to write it down. It is a fairly simple story. Gatsby has amassed a great deal of money during the early 1920s. He buys a mansion on Long Island and throws lavish parties.
Gatsby befriends his poor neighbor, Nick, who lives in a small guesthouse, bringing him into his whirlwind world of parties, booze and women. He convinces Nick to bring him into a meeting with Daisy, who is married to a pompous ass and has a past history with him.
Is there a future for Gatsby and Daisy?
Will Gatsby’s past catch up with him?
And how did he get all that money?
The story is overwhelmed by the fabulous cinematography, costumes, lavish parties and colorful costumes, making it a colorful movie to watch.
While most of the characters are self-serving, phony people of newfound wealth, and therefore not all that likeable, they are interesting to watch, although you don’t really care what happens to them. See it for the great acting and colorful scenes.
Rated PG-13, with minor violence, profanity and sex. It’s the 1920s, so everyone smokes.