2013 “THE GREAT GATSBY” Film Review – Dumbing Down The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann’s Spectacle Misses the Point!

2013 “THE GREAT GATSBY” Film Review – Dumbing Down The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann’s Spectacle Misses the Point!

Baz Luhrmann’s new 3-D movie “The Great Gatsby” follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks.

Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan(Joel Edgerton).

It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and does not hold a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

The film is like a glitzy rap version of “Gone With The Wind” with Snoop Dog hummin Tara’s theme. Tobey Maguire comes across like a box boy from Gristedes and the “women” are something out of a costume drama at a local high school. The problem with these “period” films today are the American “actors” and actresses basically have no character and class. You see them off screen and they are running around like perpetual teenagers – backpack victims.

Leonard DiCaprio is a classy guy and would have been much better helped by good British actors than the second rate American cast of high fiver casting types.  The young American women’s voices are voice of elocution training.   Half the time they can’t find their pitch – they are either wining in their version of the social registry jargon or jarring along in “Valley girl” speak like talking heads on Fox News.

This “Gatsby” joins a long list of bad films of an over-rated novel.



Grand liners like the IMPERATOR were used to carry the Gatsby rich and famous from New York to Europe (“or across the pond”)…

tumblr_mj84w3BuMD1r95c9wo1_400(Left: F. Scott Fitzgeral sails for Europe aboard a Cunard Liner in the early 1920s…)  As for Mr. Luhrmann, he and his colleagues have worked like whirling dervishes to make the plot look like it’s moving. He gives you way too much of what you didn’t really want in the first place: soulless high jinks. The net result of all this cinematic whirling, of the “wrong” music and of the parodic plot, is that nothing at all in the film moves us.

Perhaps the film’s cardinal sin is that Luhrmann just doesn’t have any idea when to pull the final curtain on this “American” myth and go back to his first films.

The film has no satire, no tragedy, and lacks depth, irony, and nuance.

It is nothing but adolescent emotion—overblown, simplistic, self-indulgent—and in matters of textual analysis, functionally illiterate.

The film follows the 1974 failed Gatsby adaptation in, as Vincent Canby said, “seeing almost everything and comprehending practically nothing.”

Luhrmann and his 3-D glasses shows us freshly squeezed orange juice and bootlegged liquor, the cream Rolls and pink suit, and the breast “hanging like a flap” so close to you and your 3-D glasses you can almost reach it!

It shows us everything but comprehends nothing. Mr. Luhrmann cannot deliver Fitzgerald’s devastating moral judgment of the rich at their rotten, careless core, because he loves them, and those beautiful silk shirts, too much.

The Great Gatsby is more than some dimly remembered required reading, or the ‘basis’ for some ridiculous re-imagining. The book is a funny, heartbreaking, vividly modern work of social criticism, and the depth and beauty of its writing should not be diminished by the misreadings and short-cuts of Mr. Luhrmann. The film, like Daisy, is a dazzling, seductive trick of the eye, “a beautiful little fool” unworthy of devotion.

In the end… the film is like watching “War and Peace” on an iPad directed by Mark Zuckerberg with all the glitz of renting a car from Uber.

PG-13, Drama, Romance, Directed By: Baz Luhrmann. Written By: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce and based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.