The Great Gatsby [2013]

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Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Written by: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce; based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Amitabh Bachchan, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, Adelaide Clemens

Gatsby took his sweet time getting here. Luhrmann’s take on Fitzgerald’s lauded novel was my most anticipated film of 2012, sharing that honor with Les Misérables. Then it got pushed back, thus becoming my most anticipated movie of 2013. The music was leaked, track by track, making me curious as to how a 20’s party set to will.i.am. or Fergie would look and sound. I made it no secret that I was anxiously waiting for this movie, sharing every picture, song and clip I could find on social media and talking about it to anyone who would listen.

After every delay, I still had to wait about a month for it to reach Mexican screens. A long month of reading wildly diverging opinions by my blogging friends from other countries. So when I got to the office on Monday, after the Gatsby opening weekend, and a coworker asked me how was it (note that he didn’t ask if I had seen it. Of course I had. Twice.) I responded with a resounding “meh”.

“That’s all I needed to know”, he said.

It’s impossible to live up to the reputation of “the great American novel” and even harder living up to the perfect picture I’d formed inside my head, but The Great Gatsby could and should have been much better. The soundtrack seemed poised to be as crucial an element to the whole package as Gatsby himself, but it ended up being a mere afterthought.

The party scenes are certainly highlights of the film, but there are few and far in between. In the meantime, Carey Mulligan doesn’t do much to make Daisy a little more likeable, and the script does not help us understand why Gatsby is so obsessed with her. Leonardo DiCaprio is solid, as always, but this is not the role that will finally bring him that long-delayed Oscar. Elizabeth Debicki is trying too hard, while two people stand out. Never thought I’d be writing this, but the first is Tobey Maguire, perfectly cast as Gatsby’s geeky, unrefined neighbor and friend Nick Carraway. The other is Joel Edgerton, making the most out of a tiny but pivotal role.

Fitzgerald’s book is less than 200 pages long so it strikes me as odd that, at least the 1974 and 2013 versions, go on for over two hours. I don’t get the need to stretch out the already slight story. In this latest adaptation, the visuals are gorgeous but even those get a little tiring if nothing is going on. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but I actually liked this film. However, as a fan of the great talent involved, I can’t help but feel dissatisfied with it. Amid the razzle-dazzle and the pleasantly anachronistic soundtrack, there’s a sea of wasted potential.

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