Baz Luhrmann was born to make “The Great Gatsby.” Dazzling excess, star-crossed lovers, and tragedy are the cornerstones to nearly every movie he’s ever made, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel has all three in abundance, wrapped in a searing indictment of the pursuit of wealth. All four of those elements of the story are on full display here, but there’s something missing in the execution. For a story with so much passion and longing and regret, it’s surprisingly bloodless. This is not to say that Luhrmann doesn’t hit the emotional buttons; he just doesn’t hit them hard enough. Then again, that may not be Luhrmann’s fault at all, but the source material. A bunch of clueless people ruining their lives by making bad decision after bad decision; it’s like a Mike Leigh movie, with money.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is in a sanitarium for a laundry list of conditions (top of the list: morbid alcoholism), and soon begins telling his shrink about the summer of 1922. Nick had taken a job as a bond salesman during the Roaring Twenties, and found a small cottage in the village of West Egg, where he lived next to new-money millionaires. Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) lives across the bay from her, and is (unhappily) married to old-money millionaire and unfaithful thug Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). The man who lives next door to Nick is a mysterious fellow named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Jay would throw massive parties every weekend, but his reason for doing so was surprisingly sweet: he hoped that one day Daisy would attend one of them. Daisy was Gatsby’s girl five years earlier, and once Jay discovers that Nick and Daisy are related, he asks Nick to invite Daisy over for tea. This sets in motion a chain of events that would change the lives of all concerned.