An innocent Nick Carraway moves in beside the illusive and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby who throws wild and extravagant parties, rumours and myths have build up around this character but very few people have actually met him. Nick is drawn to Gatsby before they have even met.
F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrated so articulately how wealth, old or new, corrupts and how the pursuit of the mythical American Dream was a fallacy in 1925 with “The Great Gatsby”. As a novel it allows our imaginations are allowed run amok as we are led through the wild parties of the elite in 1920s New York safe in the comfort of our own homes. We meet this bunch of greedy, mislead, superficial and ineffectual characters, through them Fitzgerald paints his brilliant modern cautionary tale.
As you would expect from Lurhmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo & Juliet) it looks fantastic and sounds even better. The parties are wilder than any previous adaptations, the car trips in and out of New York are at a dizzying and break neck speed, the colours are vivid, from the lush surroundings of the New York elite to the filth of the slums around Wilson’s Garage and the costumes made me want to dig out an old waistcoat.
But having to watch this story instead of read it is a different matter. Without the cushion of Fitzgerald’s prose the flaws of the characters scream out louder than Lurhmann’s outrageously lavish party scenes. None of the characters are sympathetic; they trade on their worst flaws making it uncomfortable to watch and impossible to find any empathy. Not even Lurhmann’s usually entertaining style can save it. This is what was wrong with all five previous and coolly accepted adaptations of the novel.
As for the acting, it was almost secondary to my lack of enjoyment of the film for the above reasons. As all the characters are equally despicable in their own ways and the actors did a fine job.
Can we finally admit that The Great Gatsby is unfilmable?