The Good 'Gatsby'

By Frank Ruggiero (

Article Published: May. 16, 2013 | Modified: May. 16, 2013
The Good 'Gatsby'

Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio star in 'The Great Gatsby.'

Director Baz Luhrmann’s take on “The Great Gatsby” is a visual powerhouse.

The set pieces are dazzling, the cinematography spellbinding and the 3-D surprisingly immersive.
At its best, “Gatsby” plays like a dream, a glimpse into Luhrmann’s (“Moulin Rouge!”) personal visualization of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel.

For Luhrmann’s vision, however, greatness is just out of reach, like a certain green light flashing across a certain bay. It’s a hopeful and bold interpretation, for sure, but style ultimately trumps substance.

“The Great Gatsby” is a fun time at the movies, but just that. Rather than emphasize the heart and subtext that drive the novel, Luhrmann focuses on the love story that’s left of center, which somehow makes matters decidedly less interesting — but never boring.

In the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire, “Spider-Man”) moves to Long Island, N.Y., working as a bond salesman in the city and effectively abandoning his dream of writing a novel.

Renting a small house in the village of West Egg, Nick nonetheless has a spectacular view of the more affluent community across the bay, East Egg — as does his enigmatic neighbor. In fact, it’s a direct view of the estate owned by Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton, “Warrior”), the philandering husband of Nick’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan, “An Education”).

After paying them a visit, Nick is soon swept into the extravagant, excessive and booze-fueled decadence of the Roaring ’20s — all of which happens to be handily available right next door at his mysterious neighbor’s lavish and well-attended parties.

When Nick receives a personal invitation to one of those parties from one Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio, “Inception”), he cannot refuse. Soon, he finds himself caught up not only in Gatsby’s world, but in the very concept of Gatsby itself. Who is this man? What drives him? How did he make his millions? And, most puzzlingly, why does he gaze nightly at the green light flashing ceaselessly across the bay?

The light sits at the end of the Buchanans’ dock, a fact not missed by Gatsby, who seems to have built his entire world around it. As Nick and Gatsby become fast friends, it’s increasingly obvious that Gatsby has some connection to Daisy, and under those layers of pretense, mystery and charm is a man who’s earnestly — and extravagantly — hopeful.

That’s where Luhrmann sets his sights, but it’s also where “Gatsby” becomes less interesting.
Leading up to the love story, the director stylistically (and that’s somewhat of an understatement) brings new life to Fitzgerald’s depiction of 1920s New York

. Luhrmann’s style isn’t, perhaps, for everyone, but its sheer flashiness and anachronistic components, including Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s soundtrack, create a chaotic atmosphere that pulses with life and, amidst it all, harmony.

It’s teeming with potential, most of which is squandered when Luhrmann abandons the story’s richer, cautionary concepts for those more akin to a summer movie spectacle. As such, the flashiness and extravagance lose their meaning, which is actually somewhat fitting, considering the crux of the novel, but this seems more accidental than intentional.

By the time “Gatsby” nears its conclusion, it’s as though Luhrmann feels the need to play catch-up on those concepts, making the resolution feel rushed at best. The result is far from great, but it’s a good “Gatsby” nonetheless.

“The Great Gatsby,” rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit

Additional Images

Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio star in 'The Great Gatsby.'

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in 'The Great Gatsby.'

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