Visual splendor. Good acting. Cabling a tragedy; disastrous. Why did director Baz Luhrmann illustrate impending death by using a sinister image of a billboard of a man's bespeckled face accompanied by enhanced music? The struggle of midwestern, dirt poor vet Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) to find peace within himself by becoming wealthy any ol' way he could muster seems to be what this film is about. Thinking all the while if he had the materialistic Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) for a wife, he would be complete. Luhrmann leads us to believe all of Gatsby's drive for wealth is to attract Daisy, his Trojan Horse, who toys with his feelings and who would be complete with her very own Tiffany's chain. This hedonism was a precursor for the Great Depression and gave a roar to the '20s.
As with Fitzgerald's Great American Novel, today number two due to a burst of sales, Jay Gatsby's story is told through his friend and neighbor Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who is a patient in a sanitarium due to his alcoholism. No wonder. At the doctor's suggestion, he writes what has happened to him. And so Carraway recalls his descent into Gatsby's world of corruption. Wide-eyed, with a bumpkin-like-gaze, Carraway allows himself to be manipulated by Gatsby -- who befriends Carraway solely to recruit his cousin, Daisy -- for a rendezvous. For five years, Gatsby has longed for Daisy and amassed a fortune, mansion, and fast primary colored cars to impress Daisy.
"You can't repeat the past," says Carraway to Gatsby who is obsessed with rekindling his high school sweetheart's love. Gatsby unable to or unwilling to hear and to heed Carraway's warning, turns his life into one led for the elusive and vacuous Daisy. This film takes on an existential novel woven into fabric of America.
It is an important novel and important film that will open the Cannes Film Festival. Though much grousing has preceded its premiere due to the fact that it is the fourth attempt to tell this tale of the nouveau riche being trounced by "real money," it works. If only Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann did not feel the need to give away the ending. Irrelevant if Fitzgerald did. Many of us did not read the novel and could have forgotten that the tragic ending and therefore had a more meaningful viewing experience. Heck Downton Abbey had a similar conclusion with a tragic ending and it worked beautifully because it was not cabled. Luhrmann give more credit to your popcorn eating audience to form its own conclusion, instead of shoving it down its throat along with buttery popcorn.
Still, 3D Gatsby works for the most part due to its fine acting and the good golly atmosphere Luhrmann created. It's worth the price of admission to watch DiCaprio evolve into many shades of Jay. You will lick your fingers from its buttery substance while wishing you had a man's love like Gatsby had for Daisy.