Baz Luhrmann brings his patented style to The Great Gatsby.
I get this sentiment. There is so much fervor for the text amongst a great deal of scholars that it has become as much a legendary false idol as Jay Gatsby himself. This has led the uninitiated to roll their eyes, which is a shame, because such a chain reaction ultimately dims the beauty of the story’s moving tragedy and elegant prose.
I mention this, because it colors my thoughts on Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, a somewhat problematic and bloated adaptation that overcomes its shortcomings by nailing the plight of the titular character, a man whose overreaching claim to Greatness conceals his true value.
Called a “nothing man from nowhere” by his chief romantic rival, Gatsby is a newly rich man of humble beginnings. His persona, like his wealth and parties, is extravagant and inauthentic, a sham product conjured from imagination and subterfuge.
However, underneath the hubbub, Gatsby, like the book that bears his name, is far more than nothing. He is a man of immense passion, resolve and hope on a romantic quest to live out a dream scenario with his lost love. The problem, to paraphrase Fitzgerald, lies in the fact that the idealized fairytale stored up in his heart is just another overdone exaggeration, a self-deluding illusion of colossal vitality.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays all of this perfectly. Like the books in Gatsby’s library, he’s real, but with uncut pages. The bravado and posh accent increasingly prove themselves to be affectations, and the actor does an excellent job of cutting thorough the mystery and false confidence to show a sad and desperate man who’s achingly real.