Jay Gatsby conquers poverty and becomes 'great' - but is he good enough for elegant Daisy, married to aristocratic Tom?
Right up, Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (TGG) is Hollywood's Devdas. Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) and Daisy (Mulligan) fall in star-crossed love. Poor and ambitious, Gatsby reinvents himself, but Daisy's won by aristocratic, womanizing Tom (Edgerton). Jay arrives in 1920s New York, abuzz, as Daisy's cousin Nick Carraway (Maguire) notes, with a 'golden roar'. Stocks and skyscrapers are shooting up, prohibitions and morals crashing down. Suddenly-rich Gatsby becomes NY's newest celeb, throwing his fantastic (Disney-inspired?) mansion open for amazing parties, befriending Nick hoping he'll bring Daisy back to Gatsby's life.
Which Nick does - but does the party end in whimpers or bangs?
Luhrmann's take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel is a beautiful bash - that lasts too long. On the upside, the music's super and the 3D - decorating dinners to orgies, advertisements gliding silkily along a taxi - stunning. Add DiCaprio, perfect as the golden, mysterious, toffee-hearted Gatsby, to Maguire - that most wry of observers, the loner at the party - and you're swept away by the mood. Other performances fit like ice-cubes - Mulligan conveying Daisy's soft, deadly uncertainties, Debicki dashing as ironic golf-star Jordan, Amitabh Bachchan shining as gangster Meyer Wolfsheim in a sharp little role, witty as he echoes Gatsby's deceptions about his folks - "all sadly dead now" - frightening when he shows off the tooth hanging around his neck.
Edgerton begins with OTT-bluster but ends puncturing Gatsby with wounding bluntness. DiCaprio and Edgerton's duel unpeels the glitter's ugly core - pre-Depression America was brutally snobbish, 'old money' trumping ambitions, everyone romping with corruption, yet few paying. Luhrmann captures all this from inside a shimmering cocktail glass. His Gatsby is greedily gorgeous and occasionally sags, luxuriating in a 3D-theatric too many. Still, it showcases Fitzgerald's drama with flair - a society dancing on a knife's edge, where everyone drank and romanced too much, but you also heard an odd, wistful sigh - maar daala.