Movie Review: The Great Gatsby (**1/2)

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby (**1/2)


Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 143 mins.

Premise: In 1920's New York, novelist Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is lured into the lavish lifestyle of neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), only to learn that things aren't quite what they seem to be.

Behind-the-ScenesDirector Baz Luhrmann previously worked with Leo on 1996's Romeo & Juliet.  This was supposed to come out in December 2012 for awards season, before Warner Bros. decided it didn't really stand a chance of winning anything and moved it to May.

The Good: Fans of Moulin Rouge (myself included) will find plenty to like here.  The costumes and art direction (by Baz's wife, Catherine Martin) are meticulous and gorgeous.  The movie never fails to provide eye candy.  The music, put together and executive produced by Jay-Z, is all kinds of anachronistic cool - chock full of hip hop beats over 1920's period production.  The build-up to the introduction of Gatsby (DiCaprio) is appropriately prolonged and gloriously over-the-top, reaching a crescendo when Leo turns around and gives a great big smile, as Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" swells and fireworks light up the sky.

The Bad:  It's all downhill from there.  Baz seems to have been preoccupied with the period production design and with staging crazy cool Gatsby parties.  It's almost as if he did what he wanted and then gave up on the movie after 45 minutes, relying  (dutifully to a fault) on F. Scott Fitzgerald's book to carry the dramatic weight the rest of the way.  The second half of this movie is deadly dull, and the love story between Gatsby (DiCaprio) and Daisy (Carey Mulligan, yawn) is milked for every ounce of winsome romance it has before crumbling into melodramatic fits of hysteria.  I've never read Gatsby, but if this movie is any indication, it's a pretty slight and unsatisfying story.   Tobey Maguire is a weak link in the cast, and his constant (unsubtle) voiceover narration only serves to distract and annoy.

Should You See It?:  No. And, that's coming from a big fan of Moulin Rouge.  May be worth a look for the music and production design alone, but this should have been better.

Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars.


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