Baz Luhrmann is a man consumed with love, be it forbidden (Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge) or unlikely (Strictly Ballroom, Australia). With The Great Gatsby, he attempts both at once. Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who's currently in a mental institute where he has been diagnosed with alcohol addiction and depression, he regales us with the story of how he met Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). A millionaire playboy who regularly throws lavish parties that would put Hugh Heffner and P Diddy combined to shame, Gatsby is desperately in love with Nick's cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan). They have a complicated history, made even more complicated by Daisy's husband Tom (Joel Edgarton), who cheats regularly on her with Myrtle (Isla Fisher), but also doesn't take too kindly to this new handsome gentleman vying for his wife's attention.
At its heart, this is nothing more than another love story, but this time it involves almost solely rich white folk who have to deal with their rich white problems, with perhaps a vague metaphor about the modern excesses in celebrity culture. This makes it tough for the audience to properly root for anyone, as it can be difficult to see them as anything other than spoilt brats who care for nothing other than where the next party is happening.
And if there's something other than love that Luhrmann knows, it's how to throw a party. Watching The Great Gatsby is like opening your skull and throwing a shot of Goldschlager directly onto your brain. The extravagantly lush sets, the extremely opulent visuals, the music-video editing, the jazz-step/skat-hop soundtrack - the entire film has a hyper-realism feel to it. However, it can also be absolutely exhausting to watch, with even small two-hander conversations feeling like you're on a merry-go-round. In zero gravity. Having just taken LSD. In 3D.
It makes a nice change to see DiCaprio and Mulligan smile for a change; it's felt like an age since their characters have experiened anything other than tragedy. DiCaprio especially wears his debonair charming character like a well-tailored suit, even as he's stuck spending most of his time with Maguire playing Blandy McNarrator.
The Great Gatsby is very much like the fireworks displays that it's title character so enjoys; an overload to the senses, but ultimately hollow. Enjoyable, yes, but you will be left wondering what all the fuss was about.