“The Great Gatsby” is a spectacle of a movie.
Director Baz Luhrmann draws a direct line from alcohol-fused excesses of the early 20th century to modern-day indulgence.
Parties thrown by the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) are monumental and debauched affairs, all set to music by Jay-Z, will.i.am, Lana Del Rey and other 21st century performers.
But the music, the scantily clad women and the fireworks are a false front meant to further Gatsby’s true ends. He’s after an unattainable ideal, otherwise known as Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan).
She and Gatsby loved each other once, but he was too penniless to give her the life she deserved, which left an opening for Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and his $300,000 string of pearls.
It’s five years later, and a now wealthy Gatsby aims to win her back with help from Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). He’s Daisy’s cousin and becomes Gatsby’s confidant. He’s also our narrator, so it’s Carraway’s job to make the audience see the hope in Gatsby that he sees.
I glimpsed that hope here and there, but I also was tempted to glimpse at my watch, as the action on the screen dragged at times.
These are often annoying, self-obsessed characters determined to attain their own goals. Carraway is the most “normal” of them, and even he trades away portions of himself for the privilege of seeing what happens next.
If there’s genius in this film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, it’s not found in the parties or in the 21st century soundtrack. “The Great Gatsby” continually throws these flawed characters together, which creates an uncomfortable yet undeniable desire to follow the story to its conclusion.
By the end of the movie, everyone is covered in slime, much like the gunk dredged from Gatsby’s pool after his grand parties.
There’s also a remnant of the hope Carraway sees, a sliver of redemption in this hard story wrapped in frills and finery.
I give the film version of “The Great Gatsby” a B.
It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.
Kelli Karlson Wizard 106.7. She gives a B plus.
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal