Film Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is a literary classic. Set in The Roaring 20’s in the fictional town of West Egg, the story follows a Midwestern war veteran, Nick Carraway, in the summer of 1922, who finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his mysterious millionaire neighbour Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan.

Directed by Baz Luhrmann, this latest adaptation of the book stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, and Tobey Maguire as Nick.

A big fan of the book, the original 1974 film, and of Baz Luhrmann‘s work, 2013’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby was one of my most anticipated films of the year.

The Great Gatsby is stylish, which suits the novel brilliantly and is what gives it such a fantastic, contemporary twist. The sets and costume designs are beautiful and the whole film has a great feel to it. The one thing I did think was handled badly, however, was the soundtrack. The Great Gatsby novel is all about The Roaring 20’s and the Jazz Age. Whilst the over-stylisation of everything worked well, updating the original film successfully, the use of upbeat, modern music could have worked, but the genre needed to remain jazz-influenced to bring Gatsby’s parties fully to life. This had a huge effect on my viewing and was my only real problem with the latest adaptation, failing in the one place that Luhrmann should have known how to exceed in (he handled it amazingly with his modern adaptation of Romeo + Juliet!).

As an adaptation, the film sticks closely to the novel’s dialogue and focuses on the same, important parts of the story that need to be told. In relation to the casting, it was very hit and miss. Leonardo Di Caprio as Gatsby was spot on; he and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan were made excellent male leads. Di Caprio had the right ‘swag’ that Gatsby carries but he also played out his emotions incredibly well, and Edgerton brought the bravado that was needed of him as Buchanan.

One point of focus that I did enjoy about the recent adaptation, was the increased focus on Gatsby’s character, especially towards the end where a large emphasis is placed on how lonely he is feeling.

But one role that I thought would better from the original film was for the character of Nick. Tobey Maguire would have been perfect for the role with his somewhat awkward nature, but, unfortunately, he yet again turned out to be an actor that I just can’t stand to watch. His whiney presence should have been well-fitting for the shy, back-seat character that Nick is, as the narrator of the novel, but instead Maguire’s smugness only got in the way.

The most disappointing part of the casting in the recent film, however, was Carey Mulligan as Daisy, this being the reason for my preference of the original casting. I adore Mulligan as an actress and I had such high hopes for her in this role, but my concerns were proven true pretty early on. Mulligan is a brilliant actress, there’s no doubt about that, but she didn’t have the ‘craziness’ that the character of Daisy needed. Mia Farrow, however, fit the role perfectly in the 1974 film, and had that slightly delusional edge that Daisy is known for. Whilst Mulligan adds more beauty and elegance, the character of Daisy needed that unstable quality to her role for it to work as well.

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