Released on May 10, 2013 0 comments


Because there are so many ways to interpret the tragedy of Gatsby, he and his merry little band of inebriates have never failed to perplex the celluloid crowd. Movies created off the famous story have always underwhelmed, despite the timeless appeal of the narrative. Director Baz Luhrmann is the latest to try and ultimately fail, with an opulent and underwhelming effort, much like his Oscar nominated “Moulin Rouge,” which was also pure cinematic candy, amusing to be sure but in the end, an empty vessel.

No one denies F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the book to take a poke at the silliness of the rich, even though he and loon wife Zelda harbored more than a passing need to be part of it all. There was plenty of Gatsby in Fitzgerald himself, a young man of those roaring 20’s in possession of “New” money, the likes of which his twits of high society were more than willing to help him waste. Gatsby was an interloper, standing outside the cool kid’s tent hoping that his lost love would somehow run away with him, even though his money would always prove too foul for her uptight posse, wealth created with the help of Jewish gangsters. Then, like now, the Wasp sport of exclusion was alive and well.

The downfall of Gatsby remains his blind inability to decipher the ugliest of truths: Money and status are never an automatic portal to class and grace, a fact ugly Americans have never understood.

Luhrmann is only the latest to devalue the esoteric lessons of the novel. Though really, who cares? If it has attractive people wearing great duds, the average viewer will be happy, as they are with all empty calories. Leo Dicaprio isn’t the worst choice for Gatsby, but he isn’t a strong one either. (Neither was Redford all those years ago, but both look decent in a pink suit, so who can quibble?) Carey Mulligan is a developing talent, in possession of an amazing voice best suited to belting out Desdemona at the Old Vic. Though for this, her melancholy demeanor doesn’t translate. Daisy Buchannan is, as she reminds us, “a beautiful little fool,” one with a dangerous sprinkling of vapid mischief. Mulligan, to her credit, is not.

Tobey Maguire has no business playing Nick Carroway. The former Spiderman’s dopey wonder has become a go-to persona, one that obviously hasn’t hurt his career. Problem is, he comes across as slow and dim-witted. The only role suited to him here would have been the long suffering gas station attendant.

But as we said, none of this matters. Due to intense marketing it opened huge.

But proceed with caution, especially if those 50 thousand words ever meant anything to you. Gatsby spent his evenings looking across the Long Island sound at a green glow he’d come to believe was the beacon into Daisy’s world, (Fitzgerald’s somewhat clunky metaphor for money.) And if viewers are looking for anything beyond pretty cinematography, they will also be disappointed.

For true romantics, there is an inevitability as to why there will never be a secret handshake for our fallen hero.

Sadly, it’s Jay Gatsby who turns out to be the good-looking fool.