He became as famous as Citizen Kane, this mysterious millionaire who threw lavish parties in his mansion on Long Island.
A princeling of the nouveau riche, a poor kid from the Mid West who learnt the manners of old money and was, in the words of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), his neighbour and friend, “the single most hopeful person I have ever met.”
F Scott Fitzgerald’s novella became a symbol of the times - prohibition, speakeasies, flappers. The year is 1922 and the stock market is booming. In this atmosphere of anything goes, Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) remains loyal to his true love, the spoilt, airless, pretty wife of polo-playing Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Her name is Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her heart is a running tide.
The story of Gatsby and Daisy has a tragic simplicity, coached into greatness by the purity of Fitzgerald’s pen. On screen, it has writer/director Baz Luhrmann’s exotic imagination, breaking the rules of costume drama with dazzling set pieces and music that sounds 21st century and dancing that never wants to stop.
The look is showered with bouquets, fizzed tipsy with champagne and flagrant with style. As might be expected from the director of Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann risks everything on his vision of what might never have been. He is theatrical and courageous and not afraid to use Nick’s narrative as an explanatory tool – a cinematic original.
DiCaprio has the dignity and presence of this enigmatic hero and Mulligan captures Daisy’s fragility without sashaying into caricature. The miscast that stands out amongst a clutch of superlative performances is Edgerton. He plays Tom like a roughneck.
There is no charm, no upper class finesse, no hint of Ivy League culture. He exposes the defects of a barroom bully, which, in this glamorous aura of privileged excess, feels wrong, even (God forbid!) vulgar.