Baz Luhrmann is back with a spectacular, kaleidoscope sensory bang The Great Gatsby. The memory of the pseudo mystical, everything but the kitchen sink misfire Australia is instantly wiped away as you’re plunged into decadent 1920s New York and the gleaming estates of Long Island.

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) a writer and bond trader trying to make it on Wall Street guides the viewer on this journey. Nick’s wealthy cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her old money, unfaithful husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) introduce him to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. As is typical of Luhrmann, the first twenty minutes of the film is on overload and there is one especially frantic scene of drunken excess that could cause a brain seizure but thankfully the film settles down after that.

Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect as J. Gatsby the handsome, mysterious millionaire who further draws Nick into this world of free flowing liquor, beautiful women and sleepless nights when he invites Nick to one of his never-ending, lavish, over the top parties on his castle-like estate. The invitation, like the parties, is by design engineered to lure the object of Gatsby’s affections Daisy back to his side.

Carey Mulligan infuses the role of the obliviously spoiled Daisy with an air of wounded vulnerability that almost elicits sympathy when she proves to be typically weak and shallow. It’s a trait that Nick understands only too well as he warns Gatsby, “I wouldn’t expect too much of her.” But, of course, Gatsby not only expects much, he expects everything. His pursuit of the ideal life and love is as unrealistic as the picture perfect American dream that only exists in our imaginations.

Luhrmann is an expert at using music to underscore his stories and he seamlessly weaves an up to the minute soundtrack that features among others Lana del Rey, Florence Welch, Beyoncé and Jay-Z that gives the film an added pulse and momentum.

Catherine Martin’s production design is as always impeccable and just as in Moulin Rouge she creates a stylized hyper reality authentic in detail and rich in imagination.

With The Great Gatsby Luhrmann successfully captures America’s class divisions, arrogance, hope, longing for beauty and perfection and brings them to life for the pulsating and pixelated digital age of today. Judging from the youthful audience at the showing I attended it’s not the Cliff notes but Luhrmann’s Gatsby that young people will be referencing for a long time to come.

 

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