F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “The Great Gatsby” pivots on three characters — Gatsby, Daisy and Nick — so it's critical filmmakers get the casting just right.
In this latest Hollywood offering of this tale of obsession, passion and decadence set amidst the paradoxes of the Roaring Twenties, they did almost.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby carries an edge and even a smoldering desperation that was missing in previous performances. While charming and studiously debonair, a flicker in the eye and tension in the jaw reveals a man capable of almost anything. Daisy, this time portrayed by Carey Mulligan, is wispy, intriguing and “cute,” but I think we have yet to see the devastatingly alluring siren described in the 1925 novel.
And then there’s Nick. Tobey Maguire does an admirable job in this critical role. If this character doesn’t deliver, everything is diminished. I do have to admit that there were moments when Maguire seemed a little goofy and I missed the demeanor and weight of Sam Waterston when he was Nick Carraway back in 1974.
I’m trusting that the basic storyline of “The Great Gatsby” will be familiar to most reading this review, and if not, shame on your high school English teachers. For those who do love and appreciate this seminal work, especially purists, there will be some noted liberties with the story; even liberties with the presentation, most obvious in the music.
While the fashions, the cars, the furnishings and sets are all period perfect, the music strays — and I liked it. One scene will deliver the stereotypical beat of the era and the next brings you into the sounds Gatsby would be employing at his iconic parties if held today. I know this has freaked some folks out, but I really liked the “feel.”
This review would be totally inadequate without mention of the supporting cast. From Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker to Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, each added admirably to the texture and the depth. But I want to single out Isla Fisher as Myrtle, Tom’s mistress and the pathetic wife of Wilson, the garage owner. I was not a fan of Karen Black as this character back in ’74, but Fisher is perfect, more vulnerable and more heartbreaking.
It’s not a film without flaws. I saw it in 3-D, which was a total waste. At times, “The Great Gatsby” succumbs to excess and wallows in a point. It’s a long movie and begins to feel it.
But, I liked “The Great Gatsby” and give it 3 stars.