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One of the great American novels; an all-star cast; a mega studio budget; lavish stylist Baz Luhrmann at the helm – what could go wrong? A misjudged tone and heavy-handedness mostly in this underwhelming extravaganza.

Originally slated for release last December then postponed for six months (an indication of anxiety or perfectionism, depending on which story you believe), Aussie Luhrmann’s take on F Scott Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties-set doomed romance, a tale of ambition, denial and never-to-be-fulfilled dreams, features all the filmmaker’s trademark extravagances.

A contemporary score (Jay-Z, Florence + The Machine) soundtracks Jazz Age New York as booze takes over, the party never ends, and the mysterious Jay Gatsby roams at the centre of it all.

Yet while Luhrmann’s outlandishness occasionally works – one of Gatsby’s legendary Long Island mansion bashes is the sort of musical-led exuberance the director excels at – here it conjures a feeling more of a garish stage show than a living, breathing Twenties Big Apple.  

DiCaprio is a mysterious Gatsby, Mulligan seductive yet vulnerable as flapper Daisy Buchanan and Joel Edgerton brutish as her philandering husband Tom, but it’s Luhrmann’s style that takes centre stage.

Yet it’s cumbersome and plodding when it should be light-footed and reckless, as Fitzgerald’s prose regularly scrawls across the screen in partially effective 3D. His drive for escapism sidelines real emotion, as the novel’s defeatist climax, our effort to beat life’s fatalistic inevitability, is rendered a slick dream that, like many reveries, is hard to recall once over. 

Good for: If you haven’t seen Redford’s ‘74 version and won’t be disappointed by comparisons.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire | 12A | 143mins


The Great Gatsby - film review: Baz Luhrmann's 3D blockbuster staring Leonardo Dicaprio and Carey Mulligan
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