THE GREAT GATSBYIn these days of austerity, we can easily forget that the hedonistic party is still going on elsewhere. While most of us are counting our pennies, the bankers celebrate their bonuses and the corporations dance away in their tax havens: welcome back to the world of The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrmann‘s film has had mixed reviews and I was sort of dreading it, but actually had rather a good time. Yes, it’s too long and a bit slow at times, and there’s a lot of his trademark high-spec production values, flashy design and dynamic editing. But it’s ambitious, dazzling and it does illuminate the narrative in interesting ways. It’s not trying to be the book – it’s more like a modern retelling and response to Fitzgerald. With so many technical effects and computer trickery, at times it’s a bit like watching an animated graphic novel or playing the Gatz video game, but it feels very true to the spirit of the piece. The core of the film is the unpicking of a nasty arrogant world where conceited Old Money and clamouring New Money slug it out in their ivory towers, and we can’t help being a little drawn into their degenerate world. Beyoncé blares out at the parties, the frocks are fabulous and all adds to the wild madness. The characters are difficult, complex and unlikeable. Leonardo DiCaprio makes a winning Gatsby, the dashing smile is everything it should be, but underneath we see the hidden darkness of a killer – there’s a hint of Orson Welles about him. Tobey Maguire is a good counterpoint, allowing us to share in his easy corruption, while Carey Mulligan gets to the heart of the complexity of Daisy’s vacillating affections and double standards. When they all finally implode in the Plaza Hotel, it’s pleasing that it’s played as a long, nasty dialogue scene, devoid of special effects, the characters’ true colours being more than enough fireworks to catch our attention. So in a busy year for Gatsby, I’ve seen the film, watched the ballet, now it really is time for me to read the book.

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