Baz Luhrmann’s lavish adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel finally hits theaters. Is this another “Australia” or “Moulin Rouge!”?

The Good 

As with most Baz Luhrmann films, this movie is visually beautiful. Except this takes it to a whole new level. For the first half of the film, Luhrmann’s eyes for grandiose, over-the-top, eye catching visuals is on full display. Let’s just say when it comes to the party scenes, it seems like Luhrmann was born to direct them. And, despite lots of worries beforehand, Luhrmann stays true to the book and this is undoubtedly F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. That might not seem like high praise, but coming from a director like Luhrmann, this is a big accomplishment.

Leonardo DiCaprio shines in this film. He has that perfect mix with the self-confidence and the bravado, but also the self-doubt that it’s all false. It amazes me that DiCaprio has grown into the actor he is today. And he’s clearly the highlight acting-wise of the film. From the music to the visuals, the film gives off a very “cool” vibe, which is no small feat. The film could have easily turned into a silly, campy film.

The Bad 

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of the novel. But, I had some huge problems with this film. The first is the film romanticized the very thing the novel sought to disillusion people about. For a story that really relies on the characters interacting, it seems as though several of the other actors just never felt fully comfortable and Luhrmann doesn’t give them a chance to interact like they should. Carey Mulligan (Daisy) in particular just didn’t cut it for me for the most part. The biggest problem with the movie is that it may be “cool” but it’s not moving. And that’s a fatal flaw for an adaptation like “The Great Gatsby”.

The Final Word

When this film works, it’s fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, too many times the film drags and sacrifices acting for Luhrmann’s love of visual flair. Not as bad as “Australia” but this film could be the biggest disappointment of the summer because of what it could have been.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

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