There are many who treasure “The Great Gatsby” as one of the classic works of American literature.
Then there are the rest of us, who have nothing but vaguely unfond memories of the book from high school.
Somewhat surprisingly, director Baz Luhrmann’s opulent adaptation of the novel should have some appeal for both of those groups.
“The Great Gatsby” is excessive, without question, but it’s vibrant and visually dazzling, too. Despite the excesses, it’s literate and intelligent, and remains fairly true to the book — though the Jay-Z soundtrack might have caused a bit of a furor in the actual Roaring ‘20s.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who throws wild, extravagant parties at his gorgeous New York mansion. While everyone who’s anyone is enjoying his hospitality, Gatsby is strangely unaffected. He is, it turns out, carrying the mother of all torches.
Tobey Maguire plays Gatsby’s neighbor, Nick Carraway, a wide-eyed innocent and would-be writer whose cousin Daisy happens to be the target of Gatsby’s affection.
DiCaprio is up for the role as the charismatic Gatsby, giving him a dash of both bravado and doubt, though Oscar talk will likely remain just that. DiCaprio is a fine actor, but on occasion his performances seem too much like acting; this is one of those occasions, old sport.
Mulligan is fine as the doe-eyed Daisy, emotionally conflicted and married to a wealthy, philandering lug (Joel Edgerton), though we never see much below the surface of her character.
Similarly, Maguire is suitable as Nick, Gatsby’s only real friend, but we never really get attached to his character.
Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) fills the movie to overflowing with colors and sound and smack-you-over-the-head symbolism. Unlike the 1974 Robert Redford version, this one will never be described as sluggish.
He doesn’t go so far as to ruin the story, however. There’s a reason that the book is a classic, and this “Gatsby” has enough love, betrayal, tragedy and mystery to please those who didn’t even realize it was based on the printed word.
To the fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald, it’s fun to see the novel brought to life, with swaths of dialogue literally lifted off the page.
“The Great Gatsby” of 2013 won’t ever be confused as a classic of American film, but it’s a blockbuster worth seeing.
Rental Recommendation: “The Untouchables” were somewhat less forgiving of illegal Prohibition-era drinking. Grade: A
Email Steve Ouellette:firstname.lastname@example.org
"The Great Gatsby"
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire
Rated: PG-13 (for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language)
Running time: 143 minutes