I’m not talking about the director’s irritating visual mannerisms (the zooms, the peculiar clarity of distant items, and so on) which I didn’t like in Moulin Rouge! either. After all, tastes may vary and perhaps we can pat the director on the head with a “nice try for some artistic stylisation, pity it didn’t work”.
Spoiler alert: reading on will reveal plot points. Then again, I don’t recommend you bother seeing the movie anyway.
What I really didn’t like was the standard modern hemi-intellectual’s view of the rich – vile, nasty people with vast, apparently causeless wealth where all they can think of to do with it is splash it out on vastly mindless hedonism. What I really really didn’t like was the malevolent sense of life the movie projects. Yes, little boy, if you dream and have passion you can achieve wonders, but your real dreams will just keep on receding into futility; and if you try really hard and do really well and are in actual danger of achieving your dream, not only will losing your temper once make your girlfriend forget the years of your mutual undying love, but some brainless loser will shoot you as well, so why bother?
I haven’t seen the original movie, let alone read the book, so I don’t know how much to apportion the blame between the author and the director. But so much more could have been done with this basic plot – which just adds to the disappointment of this incarnation.
It wasn’t all bad. I think Leonardo DiCaprio did a creditable performance as Gatsby, albeit in something of a “Jack’s life if he’d actually survived the Titanic but Rose didn’t know and married the other vile rich guy” way. Tobey Maguire was his usual charming gormless self, playing Peter Parker without much sense, let alone Spidey sense.
But the glamour was empty, the elegance a death mask and the only thing authentic was malice and stupidity. A big disappointment which could have been so much better. Ayn Rand once wrote a book, “Philosophy: Who Needs It?” Clearly movie directors and producers do.