I am probably in the vast minority when I say that The Great Gatsby as a book failed to inspire any sort of interest for me. It was drab, droll and – I’m not going to mince words here – consistently boring.
It is for that very reason that I score Baz Lurhmann’s foray into decadence so highly. He took a source material that is largely unappealing to the youth of today, and gave it the modern twist it needed to really keep an audience’s interest for the two-plus hours it demanded.
I was skeptical at first at some of the casting choices, namely Tobey Maguire. I just couldn’t bring myself to imagine a former (terrible) Spider-man filling the shoes of the star-struck Gatsby admirer. While I still believe he was the weak link in the film’s line-up, the rest of the actors pulled their weight and then some, really bringing the characters to life from their drama-ridden pages.
While we’re there, let’s talk Leo. DiCaprio has been in the pockets of popular directors for the past decade, and for good reason, as he has a seemingly endless range of emotional control, and can look out a window for hours without cracking a smile. He played off of Maguire’s unassuming Nick Carraway beautifully. It was almost enough to forget he once painted Kate Winslet naked aboard a doomed cruise liner. Almost.
For all Luhrmann has done for the characters, settings and themes, his really risky move was his choice of soundtrack. The party scenes at Gatsby’s mansion were littered with the stylings of Jay-Z, Beyonce, xx and generally the kind of music you would hear in a street racing movie, much rather than a 1920s drama about missed connections. But it worked, as it never felt out of place, since the message was untouched; the untamed degeneracy of the galas was firmly entrenched and the music only made it that much more believable.
With the dust of criticism settling, general consensus is that the movie was made for people who hated the book, as die-hard fans seemed offended by the ‘cheapening’ of the movie’s original values. Well I say, cheapen away, because the book was not all that great.