As much as Luhrmann’s Gatsby revels in its unabashed, unsubtle razzmatazz, the film is rooted in the heart of Fitzgerald’s timeless story. Directed with glorious spunk aptly reminiscent of the bustling New York of the 1920’s – where the post World War 1 optimism led to Wall Street swinging upwards as seductively as its many women, Gatsby is an achingly romantic adaptation that is well-performed, emotionally stirring and heartbreaking to watch.
The character intricacies of titular James Gatz, undoubtedly the most important of the bunch, comes out as lucidly alive as his magnificent parties that boast of scantily clad women dangling from a spectacular ceiling, a flurry of exploding fireworks, champagne pools and among other things, dwindling morals. None of it, as predicted, makes us numb with its excessiveness but works as a parable of the booming 20’s in jazz-inspired America which eventually crumbled under the Great Depression in 1929. In that sense, the story of Gatsby became the story of America, something that Fitzgerald - already depressed with the populace missing the point of his novel – might have never foreseen.
Other than altering the narrative style to make it more dramatic, the film remains mostly true to the book going as far as quoting the lines instead of only paraphrasing or catching it in spirit.
Leonardo Di Caprio plays Jay Gatsby, whose sprawling estate remains a castle of mysteries, leading to speculation of vivid variety, with the outcome almost never coming out in his favor. People enjoy his grandiose hospitality, but are too inadequate to return any of it. His intention is to capture the attention of his long lost lover – Daisy, married to a prosperous yet cheating golfer. She is cousin to Nick Carraway, the newest entrant in West Egg who is trying to capitalize on the upward trending bonds. How he becomes instrumental in uniting the lovers, who may or may not end up together, becomes the crux of the story that is otherwise rooted in the idea of hope, sacrifice, and unattainable ambitions.
It’s heavily romanticized treatment is hard to resist, and dislike for this template will come essentially from negating the idea of idealistic love: from people afraid to take the plunge, from people afraid to invest in the hopefulness that love, however difficult, manages to inspire. From the same very people of whom Gatsby is a fierce critique, if not an obvious one, a sure one. From the Buchanan’s of the filmdom.
The soundtrack is complicit in bringing out the film’s personality and its beautifully layered songs add depth and panache to the proceedings which are often full of tension and anxiety.
Tobey Maguire delivers his career’s best performance. As Nick Carraway, he is both – confused and clear, and perhaps has the most assured perspective on people around him. He is the middling road of the two extremes of excess and minimalism. And so is Leo’s Gatsby – his face and crisp shirts hiding a magnificent insecurity – a struggle to be a part of the greater society which he despises but subscribes to only because of the allure of the green light: a symbol of attaining the contextually impossible.
Even Bachchan as the scheming Wolfsheim is perfectly cast.
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