The Great Gatsby (M)

In a word: Opulent

F Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby is the sort of story that would always make an interesting film. And director Baz Luhrman – known for his big screen theatricals - was the right choice to make it.

Luhrman’s films always make the most of the spectacle the screen offers (though not always successfully - remember Australia?) and, of course, much of Gatsby – indeed Gatsby himself – is all about the show. It helps that the Gatsby storyline isn’t overly complex in terms of the events it recounts (what they mean is, of course, another matter and one which school children around the world have puzzled over for generations) giving Luhrmann plenty of time to put on the performance he so desires.

"A commentary on how far people will go for love, on obsession and it’s destruction power, or a dig at the hollowness of wealth and all that it offers – or perhaps all of the above and more, The Great Gatsby is an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours but also leaves you with plenty to think about when it comes to such big questions as the purpose of life itself."

And what a performance. No expense has been spared with the dazzling sets and multitudes of actors in a film which is ripe in all its senses.

Yet there is plenty of time left for exploring the concepts which the Gatsby story raises – for those who aren’t familiar with it, the story tells of a mysterious and ultra wealthy figure, Jay Gatsby, who becomes known for throwing extravagant parties at his mansion in the community of West Egg on Long Island, just outside New York.

The tale’s narrator (and Gatsby’s next-door-neighbourhood) is Nick Carraway who, through college acquaintances Tom and Daisy Buchanan, finds himself entering the high society, Jazz Age world in which Gatsby operates. What follows is an increasingly tangled web which – without giving too much away - eventually leads to a death and the destruction of the world Gatsby has created for himself.

Leonardo DiCaprio was an inspired choice for Gatsby – able to play the man of the world and at the same time convey a sense of uncertainty – while Tobey Maguire (who plays Carraway), Joel Edgerton (as blustering Tom Buchanan) and Carey Mulligan (Daisy) all deliver solid performances.

A commentary on how far people will go for love, on obsession and it’s destruction power, or a dig at the hollowness of wealth and all that it offers – or perhaps all of the above and more, The Great Gatsby is an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours but also leaves you with plenty to think about when it comes to such big questions as the purpose of life itself.

And while the movie ties this off a little more neatly than the book which leaves much unanswered, it’s a fairly faithful rendition of Fitzgerald’s text. As a result, there are some scenes which may disturb - so be warned this movie will not be for all.

A memorable translation of a classic text.