The Great Gatsby (2013)


What makes a great film adaptation of a great novel? Purists hold that fidelity to the original is the only valid benchmark while others look for creativity of interpretation. Iconic novels like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) are a particular challenge, as this American high school text is still revered as the ‘quintessential American novel’. But its genre is open-ended, and one can see it as an epic love story, a detective drama, or a tale about the dark side of the American Dream. Baz Luhrmann’s version is a classic ‘rags to riches’ tale of a young man’s rise to wealth and his obsessive pursuit of a love object. Gatsby uses his illicit riches in a flamboyant attempt to reclaim Daisy, but she is ‘old money’ and he is ‘new rich’. Like Icarus, Gatsby has over-reached and is killed ingloriously while swimming in his opulent marble pool. In death, he symbolically triumphs over the moral shallowness of the American establishment.

 Modernizing this 90 year old tale is a commercially successful soundtrack that fuses jazz and modern hip-hop in collaboration with Jay Z, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, Roxy Music and others. The music and high fidelity art deco styling inspired a resurgence of 1920s fashion and design, drawing new audiences to the Gatsby legend. Visually stunning 3D, epic Hollywood panoptic framing and theatrical stage-entry-style movement of actors makes for spectacular and colourful entertainment, with social and political discourse left far behind.

The Great Gatsby never makes a great movie” said The Guardian, but soon after its release the New York Times hailed it a Box-Office Winner for the quick return of $351M on a $105M outlay (Box Office Mojo). However, commercial results are only one measure of a film’s greatness. Luhrmann has given the Gatsby legend a renewed lease on life with a unique interpretation, contemporary framing, vibrant music and carnivalé styling that adds exuberance, optimism and hope. This is an outstanding modern adaptation of an all-time classic.


Director: Baz Luhrmann

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton