Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby is like a fast-spinning glitterball of excess on the cinema screen. With a beautiful cast of clothes horses, arty colourised B&W shots of New York streets and a thumping bass-heavy hip-hop soundtrack, this could easily have been a reeeeeeeally long music video, and to be honest I was half expecting Beyonce to pop up in a flapper dress, twerking a jitterbug at any moment (her hubby Jay-Z is responsible for the movie's music after all)
The film is narrated in flashback as the story unfolds via the memories of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), as he recounts tales to his therapist of the excesses which dominated the world he became embroiled in with the young and enigmatic Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
The tale follows the lives of the beautiful and the damned of American society, all centred around Gatsby's tortured heart and his enduring love for Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan).
It's a visually enticing journey back to the roaring 20s, an era full of hedonism, loose morals, alcoholism, the great depression, oh, and some lovely dresses (thank you Miuccia Prada who worked with the film's costume designer Catherine Martin to create over 40 looks for the movie, inspired by key pieces from the Prada and Miu Miu archives.)
Maguire's Nick is an outsider who becomes an insider after moving into a cutesy little cottage next to Gatsby's overwhelming castle-like estate in the Hamptons - but as it becomes clear, Nick is also a crucial part of the film's two star-crossed lovers coming together again after 5 years apart (Nick also just happens to be Daisy's cousin).
After lots of I spy you-like shots of Gatsby's shadow in a window during Nick's moonlit walks in his garden, the pair eventually meet at one of Gatsby's extravagantly staged parties, where (via a friend) he delivers Nick a request to help renew his acquaintance with Daisy by setting up an afternoon tea at his cottage. The friend is Jordan Baker (newcomer Elizabeth Debicki) who upstages Mulligan's acting skills (in my humble opinion) in her portrayal as one of the core faces of NY's society bashes. She's also a professional golfer who makes golfing look cool (that doesn't mean I now want to take up the sport, I don't). She also bears an uncannny resemblance to British supermodel Erin O'Connor.
But back to the film, and there's just one slight problem with Gatsby and Daisy meeting, she's already married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a boorish but wealthy adulterer who is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher), the brassy wife of a roadhouse manager. Fast-forward past the afternoon tea meeting which eventually takes place at Nick's cottage (involving some comedy-scenes from DiCaprio as a nervous Gatsby), and later past the pair's passionate trysts as they fall back in love, and slowly Gatsby's world begins to fall apart. His social standing is questioned by Buchanan who knows Gatsby is in love with his wife, and after digging for dirt he unearths the truth that Gatsby was not actually born into wealth, and in an age where class and background dictated your importance, Buchanan sets about to destroy Gatsby's status and expose his flaws to Daisy - at this point she's made a pact with her lover to tell her husband she never loved him and leave (all part of Gatsby's 'great' plan).
The plan however backfires when Daisy essentially does a complete u-turn and leaves Gatsby flailing for words after a heated argument between he and Buchanan in a fancy NY hotel room. As Gatsby yet again begins to lose the love of his life, Nick watches on, aware that Gatsby's rise to wealth (albeit acquired through his part in some shadowy lucrative rackets) was purely fuelled by his desire to one-day impress and win back Daisy. It's important to point out at this stage that Gatsby's Hamptons mansion is actually directly across the bay from Daisy's, a deliberate move so he could be close-ish to her. I don't know about you, but if an ex bought a house right opposite mine in order to be near me, "stalker" would spring to mind. I know, I know, I'm ruining the love story, I'll stop now.
I won't ruin the ending either, even though we all know what happens, other than to say it will make you shed a tear into your 3D glasses, because ultimately this is a beautifully shot film with spine-tingling moments - like when text delicately appears and floats on the screen in front of you. Or when Gatsby stands on the end of his wooden pier glancing across towards Daisy's home, and you feel as if you're stood next to him watching the fog eerily roll in across the bay. The piece of music used as Gatsby meets his end is also one of the most haunting and emotional songs on the movie's soundtrack - Nero's "Into The Past" is just amazing and I've been plugging it for ages now on my own Twitter feed, so go and download it.
Unlike Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, which I disliked from beginning to end, mainly because I really dislike musical theatre, The Great Gatsby is a totally over-the-top re-telling of the novel and I really enjoyed it.
If I had to find one negative about this movie though, it would be DiCaprio's use of the phrase "old sport" which was a tad overcooked and each time he said it, my face couldn't help but cringe with him. Given that the film is heavily supported and brought to life by the musical fusion of modern day hip-hop elements enhanced by the old school jazz age, Gatsby could have quite easily used "homie" instead - in fact, Luhrmann should have just called the film "Yo, Gatsby".
The Great Gatsby is released across UK cinemas today