At every great party, there is that inescapable moment when the music stops, the lights go up and all of the imperfections which have been concealed under a cloak of darkness, are suddenly thrown into sharp relief.
That crushing realisation that the euphoria was just an illusion will be shared by audiences, who stumble bleary-eyed out of Baz Luhrmann’s visually sumptuous and overlong adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It’s a razzle dazzle of gorgeous costumes, jaw-dropping set design and directorial brio that effortlessly evokes the excesses of swinging 1920s New York.
The whirling camerawork and explosions of retina-searing colour, which have become Luhrmann’s trademark, embolden every impeccably crafted frame, bejewelled with dream-bubble flashbacks, slow-motion swoops and a blizzard of typewriter letters that fall into the words of the film’s voiceover narration.Yet this lacks the big emotional wallop that epitomised the Australian ringmaster’s other love stories including Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge!
Mysterious war hero Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) lives in a bay-side mansion with a menagerie of servants, who help him throw the most extravagant parties for the whole of New York.
Lowly stockbroker Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who lives next door to this hullabaloo, is drawn into Gatsby’s orbit and falls under his neighbour’s spell.
As the stockbroker is granted admission to the millionaire’s inner circle, he discovers heartbreak in Gatsby’s past linked to his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who lives across the bay with her philandering husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton).
Rip away the luxurious and gaudy packaging, and The Great Gatsby is reduced to an emotionally undernourished romance that fails to tug the heartstrings.