The book is seen almost as sacred, despite being a commercial flop until about 150,000 copies were given to soldiers in World War II, and later made into a compulsory text in high school. These actions led to its rise, setting it up for selling an estimated 25 million copies since its first publication in 1925.

Baz Luhrmann’s big-screen dramatization fell short despite its sheer vivid beauty of the Australian director’s vision of jazz age America circa the early 1920s. The film, set in the roaring 20s of New York City, comes with stupendous cinematic artistry and delicious sensory overload, but all the glitz and glamour that’s been packed into the 142-minute-long film doesn’t do justice to the well-written characters of the book that many generations have grown to know.

Tobey Maguire stars as Nick Carraway, the narrator of the film. As a newcomer to New York with high aspirations, Nick ends up being neighbour of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a private and mysterious man despite the lavish parties he throws at his resplendent mansion on Long Island. Carey Mulligan, an Academy Award nominee for her notable film An Education, plays Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin who’s married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), a womaniser and detestable man.

Nick finds out that Daisy and Gatsby had loved each other 5 years ago and that Gatsby’s still obsessed with her.  All the ostentatious splurging on parties and his opulent mansion are meant to recapture her affections.  The most breath-taking scene in the film is undoubtedly the spectacular, over-the-top entrance of Gatsby himself.  He appears with fireworks, a monumental musical piece played by an orchestra, with an enthralling smile plastered upon his face.

The eminently heated scene in the film comes when Tom, confronts Gatsby and Daisy about their infidelity.  Following the incident, Daisy turns perpetually petrified when she witnesses Gatsby’s tantrum and finds out that Gatsby’s abundant wealth comes from bootlegging. Will Daisy leave Tom for the monomaniacal Gatsby?  The twists and turns that unfold next make up the tangled climax.

The last scene shows Nick the stockbroker turned novelist with his finished typewritten novel Gatsby.  He contemplates before adding “The Great” above it, naming the novel as a vindication of Jay Gatsby’s greatness.

Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) is the pro-golfer friend of the Buchanans.  Her sleek, close-cropped hairstyle, and sartorial splendour on screen fit in remarkably well with the jazz age, but unfortunately, overshadows Daisy most of the time. The combination of exquisite pieces of jewellery by Tiffany & Co., costumes by Catherine Martin and make-up by MAC Cosmetics allowed the entire cast to pull off the flamboyance, excesses and wealth of America in the 1920s.

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan plays the role of Meyer Wolfsheim who is a father figure to Gatsby and the bootlegger Gatsby works for.  Prolonging his scenes in the film would have sustained the film by providing an impact on Gatsby’s character. Bachchan has played an array of gangster roles in his career with sophistication and retaining his coolness.

The film was also accompanied with a soundtrack from the star-studded likes of Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and André 3000. However, the music seemed to be out of place, blurring the lines between modern music and the phenomenal jazz in the 20s.  It would have lent great authenticity to use music of the era, like in the musical film Chicago.

Despite the brilliant cast and lavishness of the film, it’s undeniable that the movie wasn’t sustained and didn’t evoke heartfelt emotions due to the short life span and adaptation of the scenes. The Great Gatsby falls short of being a great movie.


Rating: 3/5

Release Date: May 16

Runtime: 2 hrs 22 mins

Language: English

Censorship Rating: PG 13

Genre: Drama, Romance

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Main Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan