Leonardo DiCaprio is the lovelorn tycoon in Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling version of the Jazz Age classic.
This much-hyped adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is everything you would expect: brash, glitzy and bursting with Luhrmann’s trademark razzle-dazzle.
Luhrmann’s script is reasonably faithful to Fitzgerald’s plot – if you discount the film’s bizarre framing device in which narrator Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, struggles to get the story down on paper while drying out in a sanatorium. Nick relates how he found himself living next door to mysterious, party-throwing millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) amid the gaudy splendours of Long Island and became drawn into Gatsby’s obsessive quest to regain his lost love Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who happens to be Nick’s cousin and lives across the bay with her boorish, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).
The novel’s key scenes are all here, along with many memorable images. What is missing is the tone. Where Fitzgerald’s prose is pitch-perfect, Luhrmann’s film is tone-deaf. For all the fizz he gives the story’s celebrated scenes of revelry, you get the feeling the champagne will taste flat. Some viewers will undoubtedly get a kick from the sight of flappers cavorting to the swaggering, wilfully anachronistic hip-hop of Jay-Z and Kanye West, but the performances get lost amid the hysteria, which is disappointing given how well the film has been cast.
DiCaprio is the best screen Gatsby yet, playing the role previously inhabited by the likes of Alan Ladd and Robert Redford with a convincing blend of romantic yearning and steely resolve.