Wednesday, May 29, 2013
With results that are both expected and surprising.
The film's first 20 minutes or so - a graphic depiction of the parties hosted by mega-millionaire Jay Gatsby (who has the good sense not to attend any of his own soirées) - are suitably grotesque, as if they were staged by Busby Berkeley if Berkeley had access to Ecstacy.
But once the filmmaker gets all of the insistent noise and clutter out of his system, his film settles down - surprise! - and actually tries to tell Fitzgerald's classic cautionary tale of a life tragically misspent.
The problem is, this is where the actors come in and, unfortunately, this particular filmmaker is a bad director of actors. Only Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby has any actorly power here, largely because he's Leonardo DiCaprio, the best of our young character actors and someone smart enough to know which directors and direction to heed. Tobey Maguire plays Nick Caraway as a pubescent, while Carey Mulligan is just about a total washout as Daisy, her line readings jaw-droppingly unmemorable. Meanwhile, poor Isla Fisher is in way over her head in the drastically watered-down role of Myrtle, who is now little more than a Kewpie Doll.
That said, take a second look at Jack Clayton's sublime 1974 "Gatsby," with Sam Waterston as the real Nick Caraway, Karen Black doing wonders as Myrtle, and Mia Farrow reading Daisy's lines the way they're supposed to be recited. Farrow also plays Daisy as slightly unstable. Delicious.
I could go on but won't. I've whetted my own appetite to watch Robert Redford and Farrow in a "Gatsby" that's actually watchable.