The Score: "[In 'The Great Gatsby'] DiCaprio Doesn't Get To Truly Shine Until The Closing Act"

Friday, May 10, 2013 8:15PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

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  • The Great Gatsby
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire
  • May 10, 2013
IGN 7.8 out of 10
NY Daily News 2 out of 5
Screen Rant 2 out of 5
Us Magazine 2 out of 5
Washington Times 3 out of 5

With the summer blockbuster flicks on the horizon, what better way to prepare yourself by heading out to your nearest movie theater and experiencing some 3-D action-drama in the Leonardo DiCaprio-starring Great Gatsby?

Open nationwide today (May 10), renowned Australian director Baz Luhrmann uses his film magic to lure moviegoers into theater seats with his latest creation.

"The Great Gatsby" is the Hope Diamond of American cinema -- priceless, enviable, impossibly tacky and bad, bad luck. Many filmmakers have stepped up to the challenge of capturing its quintessentially American story of self-invention, and just about all have whiffed memorably and expensively. Australian director Baz Luhrmann has broken the curse, and he's done it by refusing (mostly) to be intimidated by the legendary source material, and playing up the bits that look good on screen. This is a good strategy, because "The Great Gatsby" is one of the most cinematic novels of the American canon of books you are forced to read in high school. Its recurring visual motifs come camera ready: a ghostly green light pulsating across a foggy inlet of Long Island Sound; a pair of eyes staring out from a decaying oculist's billboard; an ash heap where the dross of Jazz Age excess smolders. (Washington Times)

Lead actor DiCaprio once again reunites with the director responsible for mid-1990's cult classic Romeo + Juliet.

The performances in this film are stronger than in any of Lurhmann's previous efforts. They are at once human, and as affected as they need to be in order to portray what are, essentially, a group of self-centered man/women children who have gorged on their own sense of entitlement. DiCaprio reteams with the director who put him on the map with 1996's Romeo and Juliet, and he is, as always, running on all cylinders. He captures Gatsby's brutality just as easily as he embodies his sweetness and his aching, little-kid-like, obstinate optimism. (IGN)

Couples unfamiliar with the plot should get a kick out of the film's glossy 1920's setting and tale of love.

A CliffsNotes plot summary, just in case anyone dozed off during 10th grade English: In the Roaring 1920s, writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire, bland) helps facilitate a reunion between dashing and mysteriously wealthy neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his married cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) on New York's Long Island. (Five years earlier, Gatsby and Daisy were in the throes of love during his infantry training for World War I, but then Daisy had to go and get married to a jerk aristocrat). Not long after the two lock eyes again in Carraway's home, they resume their passionate -- albeit ill-fated -- affair. (Us Magazine)

Living up the flick and book's theme, viewers should immediately take note of the flashy costumes and party scenes.

Still, for those willing to go with the champagne flow, this version has undeniable allure. The party scenes are dazzling spectacles only studio money could buy. The contemporary soundtrack, which combines jazz with Jay-Z, suggests some timeless connections. The Prada costumes and extravagant set design -- by Luhrmann's wife, Catherine Martin -- are astoundingly gorgeous. Luhrmann has created an experience, in other words, not unlike the events Gatsby throws himself. Of course, an empty experience is nothing more than a soul-crushing corruption, so it's a good thing we've got Leonardo DiCaprio at the movie's core. At first he does seem stilted and unnatural. But then you watch him drop the artifice -- every time Daisy enters the room -- and realize how carefully conceived his portrayal really is. (New York Daily News)

Hip-hop heads should hear urban and jazz tunes fused together throughout the film courtesy of scoring by rap mogul Jay-Z.

The most divisive aspect of Luhrmann's Great Gatsby adaptation will certainly be the soundtrack masterminded by Sean "Jay-Z" Carter. With its modern hip-hop and pop ballad tunes (read: Beyonce), some will argue that the anachronistic mix of setting and soundtrack interrupts the immersive effect of Luhrmann's world-building. While that argument is valid, in my observation the music is not employed frivolously or randomly, but is rather used at key moments with either winking irony or sharp insight into how the world back then (with excess celebrated to the tune of Jazz) is reflected in the world of today (with excess celebrated to the tune of hip-hop). Indeed, there is a whole sub-textual narrative in the film about the influence and role of African-American culture in American culture, further proving that Luhrmann's film is as much a visual novel as Fitzgerald's was a written one (with varied degrees of success between the two). (Screen Rant)

While appreciated by most, some critics flaws in the usage of 3-D technology and characters' on-screen believability.

The use of 3-D, unusual for a straight drama, plays into that difficulty. It works well in New York street scenes and panoramas -- such as the novel's celebrated vision of Manhattan glimpsed from the Queensborough Bridge ("the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world") -- but it makes the actors look more like mannequins than people. If you believe that artifice is the new reality, that cliché is the way to approach truth, you will find a kindred spirit here. (Los Angeles Times)
Mulligan doesn't get a free pass here. The ethereal actress, who reportedly beat the likes of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson for the role, only succeeds in looking radiant in her sparkly Prada gowns and diamond-encrusted headbands. She fails to embody Daisy's beguiling charm and sophistication, withering next to the reliably solid DiCaprio. In fact, DiCaprio doesn't get to truly shine until the closing act when he breaks free from Mulligan and Maguire and goes for a swim in his backyard pool. And that moment is. . . fleeting. (Us Magazine)

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