“The Great Gatsby” favors style over substance

The attempt and failure to make a big-screen adaptation F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” interesting continues with Baz Luhrmann at the director’s chair and Leonardo DiCaprio cast as the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby. His take on the famed 1925 novel shows that Luhrmann did the best he can to capture the spirit of the Jazz Age, but the movie ends up being nothing but a shallow and soulless movie filled with eye candy.

Set in 1922, the film is narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a naïve bond salesman in New York City who lives on Long Island next door to Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), who throws lavish parties nightly at his mansion. Gatsby confides in Nick by telling him that he wants to get close to Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan). Gatsby and Daisy were once in love with each other, but she hasn’t seen in five years. Reuniting Daisy with Gatsby is easier said than done as Daisy is married to boorish millionaire Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), who in turn is having an affair with the wife (Isla Fisher) of a local mechanic (Jason Clarke).

Like most of his movies, Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” is a visual feast for the eyes that feature top-notch production values from the production design to the costumes that make you feel like you are attending one of Gatsby’s extravagant soirees. The movie also features an amazing cast including top-tier performances from DiCaprio, Mulligan and Edgerton (who might as well been twirling his moustache while delivering his lines).

At the running time of nearly two and a half hours, the pacing of “The Great Gatsby” is painfully slow as the film could have benefit from trimming at least 15 minutes. It also doesn’t help that Maguire’s (the weak link in the cast) monotone, lifeless narration earns him the title of World’s Most Boring Narrator. The love story is the main core of this movie, but it is hard to care about it when you do not care what happen to these characters even as tragedy rears its ugly head. Luhrmann takes a page from his own playbook by incorporating modern songs in a period film whether it’s Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.) or Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” but none of these leave enough of impression on you to make you remember which song was feature in certain scenes.

As much as this film is worth a look just to glance at the fantastic technical work and fine performances from the three leads, it’s not enough to give this movie a hardy recommendation. In the end, “The Great Gatsby” is all style, no substance.

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