Chosen as this year’s Cannes opener, Baz Luhrmann’s new adaptation of The Great Gatsby is days away from its first public airing. So it’s a timely moment for the DVD release of the BBC/Granada TV movie version of F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, first broadcast in 2000.
Compared with Baz’s jazzed-up take on Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic, this is a far more sober affair. For a start, the cast doesn’t have quite the same dazzle as either Luhrmann’s film, headed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, or Jack Clayton’s 1974 film (scripted by Francis Ford Coppola, no less), which starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
Here, Toby Stephens, best known for his stage career, plays the story’s enigmatic title character and Mira Sorvino, four years after her Oscar win for Mighty Aphrodite, is Daisy, his great lost love found. Paul Rudd fills the role of Nick the narrator (played by Tobey Maguire in the new film) and Martin Donovan is Daisy’s husband, and Gatsby’s rival, Tom.
They deliver solid performances in an adaption that’s a good deal more faithful to the original than Luhrmann’s version promises to be. But, truth be told, it’s a bit dull, too. The magic of Fitzgerald’s book eludes it, as it had also eluded the Redford-Farrow film and, before it, the 1949 black-and-white film starring Alan Ladd and Betty Field. Will Luhrmann capture the book’s spirit this time?
Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby opens the 66th Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday 15th May and goes on general release from Thursday 16th May.