Every year, it seems like the biggest movie of the summer opens up the first weekend of May. Movies like Spider-Man, The Avengers and Iron Man 3 debuted with massive success to kick off the summer movie season in that first week in May.
Every year, it seems like the biggest bombs of the blockbuster summer season open up in the second weekend of May. This weekend, that movie is The Great Gatsby, and you can hear the ka-boom all the way to Australia, Old Sport.
Set in 1922, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby – a mysterious business tycoon who throws legendary parties in his audacious mansion in West Egg, Long Island.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a writer who has decided to abandon that unprofitable line of work to make some real money in the bond market. He takes a very modest cottage in the shadow of Gatsby’s castle, and attracts the interest of this mystical figure.
Why does Gatsby take an interest in Carraway?
The Great Gatsby is a vapid, vacuous take on the classic novel. It’s all flash and no substance. Buried beneath all of the soap opera twists and turns, you could get a deeper look at the class warfare, the frivolity of the elite, the gossip mongering and more.
Instead, The Great Gatsby is phony.
It looks phony.
It feels phony.
The 3D is pointless and phony.
The acting is phony as almost every actor sounds like a parody of a 1920’s movie.
Even the trick of using modern music which doesn’t fit with the 1920’s setting of the movie is tired and phony. It’s like director Baz Luhrmann has run out tricks, and had to rely on the old standbys to bring some cheap thrills in the place of real emotion and excitement.
He’s trying so hard to visually stun us, he misses chances to tell a story beyond shocking revelations that really aren’t all that shocking. This potential indictment of the rich and powerful has no oomph because Luhrmann hasn’t established any foundation on which these big events and big twists have any meaning. It lacks the crackle and tension needed to pay off for the viewer.
Instead, The Great Gatsby is a visual assault, and Luhrmann should be jailed for 5 – 10 years in the slammer for battery of our eyes and theft of our ticket money.
Sure, we get a solid performance by DiCaprio as he makes Gatsby the best character on screen whether he is the consummate showman, the ultimate charmer, the devilish tempter drawing people into his sphere or showing heartbreaking vulnerability.
Meanwhile, Maguire is comically clownish at times with his doofy reactions to what is happening around him and Carey Mulligan as Daisy doesn’t get much to do but perform a failed Blanche DuBois parody playing on the generosity of rich dudes instead of the kindness of strangers.
We also have a tragic story that never gets its due. We need the long closing monologue lifted straight from the novel because Luhrmann forgot to truly tell that part of the story.
You should just read the book.
The Great Gatsby is rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.