Having read the book twice and being a little bit in love with the 1920s American glamour, it was a given that I would see this film pretty much as soon as it came out. I first read Fitzgerald’s story of the elusive Gatsby and his illicit love for Daisy during the summer of my second year of uni. I wasn’t studying it but it was a favourite of one of my coursemates and felt I should give it a go.
The long words and elaborate sentence structure meant that I couldn’t concentrate on it properly at that time but I did pick the book up again at the beginning of this year in preparation for the 2013 film. This time, it pulled me in and it was as if I was right there in the debauchery and masquerade with Nick. So naturally, my excitement at seeing the film was sky-high.
Perhaps one of the most striking things about the film is the set design. Gatsby’s mansion is opulent, vibrant and simply breathtaking to behold. Nick’s cottage is pokey and not dissimilar to the Weasley’s cosy home but this contrast really highlights the differences between the men themselves, which is something I’m not sure really comes across in the book. I, for one, certainly never imagined Nick in The Burrow. The contemporary soundtrack featuring Lana Del Rey, Beyonce and Jay Z is another great aspect of the film and the 1920s-fied version of Crazy In Love really took me by surprise in a positive way!
Leo DiCaprio was an excellent choice to play the ambitious and mysterious Jay Gatsby. He has the ideal youthful look to him while maintaining a solid male lead demeanour, which is what Gatsby is all about. Indeed, after playing Jack Dawson in Titanic who I would argue is not a million miles away from Gatsby, it was great to see that DiCaprio can still pull off the young man trying to keep a brave face.
Maguire played a vacant but likeable Nick Carraway and I definitely felt that I got to know Nick all over again. His fascination with Gatsby borders on romantic infatuation, which is something that is constantly hinted at in the book and Maguire gets this across very well with wistful stares and his quick attachment to Gatsby despite not knowing a true thing about him.
One thing that disappointed me was the lack of real chemistry between DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan who plays Daisy. The love story is a tragic and incredibly powerful one. In order to depict that kind of connection, there needs to be a lot more sparks than there were between them. It is primarily the relationship that spans across a river and across five years of passion and despair that makes me love The Great Gatsby so much, so I was quite disappointed to find that I didn’t really believe that they were in love. That didn’t make the ending any less emotional, by any means!
The shooting of Gatsby by the cuckolded George Wilson made a huge impact and the slow motion effect of DiCaprio falling backwards into the swimming pool is the most dramatic moment in the film. My heart was in my mouth as he crashed into the water while Maguire’s soft, slow monologue floated over the top. I can’t deny that tears were in my eyes as the reality behind Gatsby’s life of pretence and excess were told as we watched him die.
Lies, exaggeration and illegitimate romance are all central themes in The Great Gatsby and the film does create this image of the truth being hidden behind smoke and mirrors. All in all, if you can get past the rather damp portrayal of the romance, then it is a great film that I would recommend seeing, if not just for the elaborate sets and awesome music.