‘The Great Gatsby’ dazzles in theaters

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“The Great Gatsby” came roaring into theaters on May 10, bringing with it a representation of an extravagant but hollow lifestyle that both amuses and disgusts.

Any student who survived English 11 should be familiar with the story. The narrator, Nick Carraway, moves to new money West Egg in the middle of the Roaring Twenties and ends up witnessing and aiding a romance between his married second cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and his extravagant neighbor, Jay Gatsby.

Director Baz Luhrman strived to keep the movie true to the book, going so far as to set up the story as if were being told by Nick a few years later at the behest of his psychologist. This allowed Luhrman to include some of Fitzgerald’s magnificent prose, though the scenes where the written words floated off the page were a bit much.

Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway was wooden and awkward except for a few emotive interactions with Gatsby, thoroughly living up to his representation as a wallflower. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby was extremely sympathetic and Carrie Mulligan’s Daisy felt far more real than I could have expected. However, it was the more minor characters, like golf star Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) and Tom Buchanan’s mistress Myrtle (Isla Fisher) who really took the show.

Visually, the movie was overwhelming. Gatsby’s parties overflowed with fireworks,alcohol and a pounding mixture of modern and period music. The valley of ashes, as Nick calls the poverty stricken areas outside the city, provided an excellent contrast to the shimmering glamour of Gatsby’s house and the conspicuous wealth of the Buchanan mansion.

The best praise that I can heap on “The Great Gatsby” is that it expanded my understanding of the source material and allowed to me to finally sympathize with Fitzgerald’s unlikable characters. The production as a whole left me with the same simmering anger I acquired while reading the novel.

(This article originally appeared in the May 17, 2013 paper.)