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“Romeo + Juliet” director Baz Luhrmann puts the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel on screen for the summer movie season in “The Great Gatsby.”
While I’m always a fan of literature in film, “Gatsby” is not the happiest of stories. It’s not what you would call an entertaining time at the movies. Instead, it expresses the central theme that money and decadence can’t make someone happy or make dreams come true.
It’s a theme that’s often overlooked in life. Consider the film’s soundtrack producer, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, who bought his baby a gold rocking horse and a crystal high chair.
What you get in the middle of the rich, party lifestyle is a beautifully shot film. From the extravagant homes of the wealthy to the simple cottage of storyteller Nick Carraway, the scenery and cinematography is great.
Adding to the look of the film are the costumes of the roaring ’20s. Don’t be surprised by the comeback of the flapper dress.
The score is interesting. The musical style of the 1920s is blended into the hip-hop style of Jay-Z. The dancers in the speak-easy also display a few of Beyonce’s dance moves.
Even with all that, I left the movie without being entertained.
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Django Unchained”) and Tobey Maguire (“Brothers”) play their roles well, but we’ve seen them play similar roles in previous films.
Maguire is the naive neighbor, Carraway, thrown into Gatsby’s world, and seeing Maguire in the role of the naive is nothing new. It’s practically his entire film portfolio.
DiCaprio’s Gatsby is a tortured soul with secrets and ghosts from his past that haunt him. That’s a role he’s played repeatedly.
It would be nice to see him in a movie with a lighter tone.
From a few comic moments in “Gatsby,” DiCaprio shows he can play a humorous character and I hope to see him in a happier role in the future. Enough with the mobsters, crazies and the love-struck. Just play a role of someone who is happy for once, DiCaprio. Or at least be in a film with a happy ending.
Joel Edgerton (“Zero Dark Thirty”) plays the jealous, cheating husband, Tom Buchanan. Cary Mulligan (“Drive”) is his wife, Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s obsession. If anyone is a standout in the film, it’s Mulligan.
“Gatsby” also is a long film. You are worn out half way through with the deception and self absorption of the characters. Then again, that might be the point.
“The Great Gatsby” has its moments, but might be a story better left to the pages of a book.