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Tom Tangney

Dream of ‘The Great Gatsby’ proved unattainable for Baz Luhrman

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2013, file photo, supporters on both sides of the coal export issue attend a Millennium Bulk Terminals Longview Environmental Impact Statement Scoping meeting at the Clark County Fairgrounds Event Center in Ridgefield, Wash. An environmental study released Friday, April 28, 2017, said the proposed coal-export terminal in Washington state would increase cancer risk for some residents, make rail accidents more likely and add millions of metric tons of climate-changing greenhouse gas globally every year. (Steven Lane/The Columbian via AP, File)

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in “The Great Gatsby,” but it’s director Baz Luhrman who’s the real star, for better or worse.

This Great Gatsby is far from perfect. In fact, it’s a mess.
It may spring entirely from director Baz Luhrman’s imagination but like Gatsby himself he makes a mess of everything.

Luhrman throws everything he can at this dream project – opulent costumes, grand set designs, inspired pop music,
CGI special effects, even 3-D. Why F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic needs 3-D is beyond me, but it’s worse than unnecessary.
It’s disorienting and distracting, especially in the first half of the film, when Luhrman establishes the manic world of the Roaring 20’s but fails to ground any of the main characters in it.

I fault none of the actors. They don’t make much of an impression because they’re swallowed up by the director’s grandiose vision.

The film finds its footing in the second half, when the underlying tension between Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom finally surfaces but by then it’s too late.

Luhrman’s film is not without its pleasures: DiCaprio’s first appearance as Gatsby accompanied by fireworks and the strains of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” the eerie billboard eyes of Dr. Eckleburg, the idiosyncratic and anachronistic soundtrack, especially Lana Del Rey, and the artful use of the famous final lines of the novel visible on the screen.

But overall, it feels like a major missed opportunity. Just as Gatsby wants Daisy too much for his own good, my hunch is Baz Luhrman wanted “The Great Gatsby” too much to make it work. Gatsby’s dream proved unattainable – so too did Baz Lurhman’s.

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Tom Tangney on KIRO Radio

About the Author

Tom Tangney

Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.


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