When plans were announced for a fifth movie version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic 1925 novel, "The Great Gatsby," to be filmed in 3D and featuring Jay Z music, no one could be blamed for being skeptical or rolling their eyes.
But when you see director Baz Luhrmann's vision play out on screen, it actually fits the novel like one of Gatsby's finely tailored suits.
"The Great Gatsby" was about bathing in gross extravagance and excess, so why shouldn't the movie be made the same way? And who better than Aussie director Luhrmann to do it? He's the director of the gaudy "Moulin Rouge" and flashy "Romeo and Juliet."
He cast his Romeo as the title character.
Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic as the mysterious Jay Gatsby - a man hiding secrets who made himself rich to win back a long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan, played by the radiant Carey Mulligan.Toby Maguire is Daisy's cousin, Nick Caraway, the narrator of the story and an outsider to all of the parties and drunken debauchery of the uber rich lifestyle. He's also Gatsby's best route to Daisy. Problem is, Daisy went on and married an old money scoundrel named Tom, played by an outstanding Joel Edgerton.
DiCaprio's Gatsby can be viewed in so many ways - a lovesick romantic, a delusional liar, a conniving and selfish elitist - maybe all of the above. But he's endearing in a way previous versions of the character haven't been.
Likewise, Luhrmann's lush and immensely entertaining version breathes fresh life into this story that's faded over time simply into required high school reading. In fact, it's close enough to the book that some students could probably cheat and watch the movie and do okay on the test - not that they should.
Some have complained the movie is so beautiful and pristine that it feels fake and empty. They're right - but that's the whole point of the story, old sport.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * * * *
Out of five stars