Hollywood does not have a good track record when it comes to adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel The Great Gatsby, and as Peter Travers gravely points out, Baz Luhrmann’s new Leonardo DiCaprio-starring version continues the trend. But for Travers, this new Gatsby is more of a “crushing disappointment than it is a disaster, because there’s a mind back there, even though this mind is crazy.”
Just as Gatsby (DiCaprio) throws everything at Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) to make her love him, Luhrmann tosses everything and the kitchen sink into this film, even making the movie 3D. The most egregious use of the effect comes as Gatsby’s best friend, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), narrates from the book, the words coming out in display type and falling over your head like confetti. As Travers notes, Gatsby officially proves that if you can’t make it good, make it 3D.
While Travers goes on to praise DiCaprio’s turn in the film – “he looks like he actually has an idea about the character he’s playing” – the other performers get buried in artifice, bolstered by a contemporary-leaning soundtrack produced by Jay-Z that stands at odds with the story’s Jazz Age setting. “I have to sadly say,” Travers concludes, “that while I admire the effort that goes into this, what I’m seeing on that screen is just boring, artificial and godawful.”