A visual display that makes you want to read the book

This is my review of The Great Gatsby [DVD] [2013].

The reviewer Peter Bradshaw's description of Baz Luhrmann as "a man who can't see a nuance without calling security for it to be thrown off his set" is quite telling, but if you accept that the director's trademark is flamboyant excess, you could argue that the extravagant parties thrown by the wealthy Gatsby, the wild, escapist behaviour of "the bright young things" in the Jazz Age following the privations of World War 1, and the unthinking self-indulgence of the very rich, all lend themselves to Luhrmann's bombastic approach.

He is faithful to the details of the story, which is a "good yarn" as well as being a comment on the snobbery and corruption of 1920s American society which he develops to some extent. With events seen through the eyes of the narrator Nick Carraway (unclear why he is so poor when his cousin Daisy clearly comes from an established family accustomed to wealth), we do not at first understand his huge respect for Gatsby, to the extent of labelling him "great". We gradually come to grasp the irony of Gatsby's use of vast, recently gained wealth to try to rekindle an old love, his delusion that money can be used to regain the happiness of a past infatuation and the poignancy of "true love" blighted by the fate of "bad timing" yet still providing opportunities for honourable personal sacrifices which may go unnoticed.

I accept that this may be a shallow interpretation to those who know and love the novel, but if the film succeeds in introducing people to it, and inspires some, like me, to read Scott Fitzgerald for the first time, Luhrmann has achieved something more than simple entertainment, as he did with Romeo and Juliet.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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