Newbie to ‘Gatsby’ finds tale exhilarating


Antonina Johnston

Image used with permission under Fair Use doctrine. Source:
Image used with permission under Fair Use doctrine. Source:

I must admit I haven’t read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I have to believe he would be pleased with what director Baz Luhrmann has done with his story.

From the beginning Luhrmann captivates the audience with his attention to detail from the hair clips that pin the actresses’ hair back to the picture frames that protect memories. Luhrmann, known for Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, makes sure every item is accounted for. Working together into a mixture of beauty, Luhrmann stays true to Fitzgerald’s vision of the main character, masking this love story with deeper plot lines, with time spent going into great detail about characters past, that creates fans who wouldn’t have been interested in the first place.

Tobey Maguire (known for his leading role as Spiderman in the “Spiderman” movies) plays Nick Carraway, a young man who hopes to gain fortune by selling bonds. He narrates the story of the time he knew and befriended Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (known for countless roles, not the least of which is Jack Dawson in Titanic and more recently Calvin Candie in the Oscar winning Django Unchained. For those who don’t know the tale, Gatsby is a wealthy man who is hopelessly in love with Carraway’s cousin Daisy Buchanan, (Carey Mulligan, Irene in Drive) who is married to  Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton, Tim Green in The Odd Life of Timothy Green).

DiCaprio’s version of Gatsby is spot on. Physically, his piercing blue eyes keep you on the edge of your seat at every word he speaks. Gatsby’s ambition and hope are evident through his tone of voice and his facial expression. He deserves an Oscar for this performance.

Practically a character themselves, the costuming  is superb. Catherine Martin’ designs make every background character stand out like a leading actress thanks to authentic jewelry and dresses. In the end they all fit together like an antique vase. The leading actors had suits and hats that looked straight from the 1920s. The colors complimented the actors skin tones and highlighted their hair. Martin did an astounding job of enhancing each character while allowing them to work together.

Even though it is obvious during the driving scenes and cityscapes that Luhrmann uses CGI, such moments don’t take away from the quality of the film. The sets are beautiful. My favorite is Gatsby’s mansion. The opulence and regalness help the viewer understand the character who owns it. The amount of detail in every room might seem overdone to some, but to me each part of the scenery is perfect and necessary.

Finally the music is astonishing. It helps set the mood of the entire movie. At points where emotion couldn’t be expressed by the characters it is shown through the music. For instance, when Daisy and Carraway dance in Gatsby’s house and the music is uplifting, the camera cuts to Gatsby’s face and the audience sees pure bliss. The upbeat music during that scene allows the audience to feel his happiness.

Both music and movie are worth purchasing to play over and over again.

By Nina Johnston

Read our review of the score here.

Did you see the movie? Have you read the book? Which did you like best?