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Article by Teddy Durgin

So, is The Great Gatsby Great?

As I was preparing to see The Great Gatsby recently, it just dawned on me that i was never that big a fan of the book when I read it in high school and college!Now, them's fightin words in some circles, I know. I would have been cast out of the English Department back in the day for even whispering such a thing. But you know,folks,once I admitted that I wasn't personally beholden to the general groupthink that the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is a bona fide, undeniable literary classic, I eased up going into this film. I relaxed. Heck, I even started to consider messing with those in attendance who were there waiting for the lights to go down with folded arms, already offended. How dare director Baz Luhrmann turn this great work of lit-a-ra-tour into a gaudy, glossy, 3-D spectacle for the uneducated mouth-breathers of the shopping-mall cineplexes! How dare he infuse hip-hop into a story set in the stylish, elegant Roaring 20s! How dare he not film every scene exactly as F. Scott wrote it on the page nearly 100 years ago! Reactions afterward were extreme, to say the least. People either hated it (How dare he!) or loved it (How daring!). So, where did I fall? Sigh. Clowns to the left of me... jokers to the right... here I am, stuck in the middle again. I neither loved it nor hated it. In fact, I had the same reaction to the film as I did with the book both times I read it in my younger days. I appreciated it. Its certainly a gorgeous film to see. The day Baz Luhrmann decided to become a filmmaker, the world lost a fantastic art director. I can only imagine what his house looks like! Actually, it probably wouldn't live up to expectations either. At any rate, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby, a Long Island millionaire who throws ridiculously lavish parties, yet remains a mystery figure to most. He takes a liking to his new neighbor, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who Gatsby takes to calling Old Sport as a term of upper-crust endearment. Nick becomes our entry into this world of despicable wealth and even more despicable secrets. Gatsby is in love with Nicks cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), the emotionally fragile wife of brutish Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). We come to learn that Gatsby has built his whole world around winning Daisy away from Tom.But that world is largely a fake, a lie. Gatsby is a lie. All the characters are, of course, lies of some form or another - symbols of an era about to be brought down by the Great Depression. Yeah, its a deep and resonant book. In fact, here's the deal. I think The Great Gatsby is so layered, written by an author who was so in tune with his time and his environment, that it probably only fully works on the page. Luhrmann has made probably the absolute best movie he is personally capable of making here. But I think there are some stories that are only really meant to be great - to be classic - in their pure original form. No filters. No interpretations. Just you and the author. Most of the cast is allowed to pose and play dress-up admirably. DiCaprio gives his usual committed star turn. Meanwhile, Maguire and Mulligan look great, but they both flounder in parts that have always been a bit too passive for my tastes. The real powerhouse here is Edgertons Tom Buchanan. Its like Edgerton has been plucked out of a time warp or something. He is so thoroughly in the moment in every scene, adopting the thoughts and mannerisms and cadences that only arrogant Old Money can exude, that he is just a wonder to watch. And you really have to hand it to the artists who worked on this picture. Every shot is meticulously planned and executed. And while the 3-D again dims an otherwise vibrant and visually sumptuous film, there's no denying how much flowers and confetti and smoke and light seemingly float and flicker off the screen inviting you into this world as Gatsby invites Nick into his world. If you're going to see it, see it in the best theater possible, Old Sport. Spending money, after all, IS a responsibility.

The Great Gatsby is rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.


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