23 May 2013, Singapore – The Great Gatsby is an incredible show. Sparkly jewels, inspired couture fashions, and a fabulous soundtrack that we have come to expect from a Baz Luhrmann film. But like the grand protagonist, Gatsby fails under the weight of his own construct, a literal interpretation of an iconic classic set to hip hop and dubstep.
The spiffy suited Leonardo DiCaprio plays the enigmatic billionaire whose quest to regain the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, is the central plot in the film, as witnessed by and narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). It is Nick’s (and Fitzgerald’s) description of New York in the summer of 1922 that has become the defining picture of the Jazz age, as well as a mirror to our own times.
Director Baz Luhrmann created these incredible, larger-than-life sets full of opulence and unspoken drama. He filled room in which Daisy and Gatsby first meet again with pale white orchids, a tempest railing against the window and Nick third wheeling it in his own house. Gatsby’s parties are massive events filled to the brim with dancing girls, saucy jazz notes and copious amounts of liquor – all the better to attract girls like Daisy, he thinks. Even the house party thrown together by Tom Buchanan’s mistress resembles a drug-fuelled orgy. All delicious tidbits that never make a full meal.
Now, if only he had re-imagined the story, rather than just the scenery. If only he gave Gatsby more alone time with Daisy, rather than panning sweeps across his vast house. If only he could make us like Daisy a little bit more, rather than leave her as the spoilt adultery victim turned adulterer herself. Unfortunately the heart never stirs for their tragic love.
All in all, Baz stayed true to the material. He cannot be faulted for that. A golden age and a dream to reach that green light on the far shore, this time Baz fell face down into his own marbled swimming pool.
Reviewed by Doris Tian