Culture Street

By Sophia Whitfield

With so much anticipation and varying international reviews already out, it was with some apprehension that I went along to a screening of The Great Gatsby.

It is typical of Luhrmann’s style with all the glitz and glamour we have come to expect. Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom - he does do sequins well!  With all the indulgence and decadence of the Roaring Twenties on show this was the perfect film for Luhrmann.

Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film revolves around Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man from a working class background with a big American Dream. Fighting for his country he is surprised to discover that his uniform brings with it a certain anonymity. He is, for the first time, amongst fellow comrades from varying classes.

When Gatsby meets the young socialite, Daisy, he falls desperately in love with her and spends the next five years accruing wealth to prove his worth. But Daisy cannot wait for him; she marries the wealthy Tom Buchanan and continues a life of glamour and indulgence.

The story is narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). He is Gatsby’s neighbour and Daisy’s cousin. Gatsby has moved into a house which is directly opposite Daisy’s and through his new found friend, Carraway, he engineers  a meeting with Daisy. This first meeting is one of the most humorous in the film. The comedic brilliance of DiCaprio and Maguire comes to the fore in this ridiculously staged meeting.

The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock which winks at Gatsby every night from across the bay is well used in the film. It is such a symbolic feature in the book and has been enhanced in this adaptation.

As the story moves along DiCaprio and Maguire play off each other. It is through Carraway’s reactions and responses to Gatsby’s behaviour that we begin to comprehend Gatsby’s downfall.

Product placement is everywhere. The beautiful outfits, from the collaboration between Catherine Martin and Prada, and the gorgeous jewellery from Tiffany and Co are sensational. Both beautifully drape the selfish and indulgent Daisy, played by Carey Mulligan. The ever flowing Moet champagne is a constant at a time when prohibition banned its consumption.

Fitzgerald’s language is not completely lost in this adaptation. It’s recognisable and used to evoke the era. The soundtrack is upbeat and although contemporary, it includes tracks from Beyonce and Jay-Z,  it does work with the Charleston.

While the purists will be taken in by Luhrmann’s adaptation it has to be acknowledged that it is spectacular. Although it’s not a film you need to see in 3D, I would recommend 2D – far better.

Even with Luhrmann’s sparkle The Great Gatsby could have not reached such heights without DiCaprio and Maguire who are the making of this film. The film is ultimately a piece of decadence, full of fast cars, expensive jewellery, and vast mansions, all with a slight nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald brilliant novel.

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