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May 19, 2013

Cannes Film Festival Review: The Great Gatsby

by Stephanie Dawson

Baz Luhrmann applies his inventive style to the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation The Great Gatsby, with Leonardo DiCaprio starring as the title character. The film opened the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival Wednesday. It was preceded by an opening ceremony hosted by actress Audrey Tautou (Amélie, 2001) and presided over by jury president Steven Spielberg. DiCaprio spoke the official words to open the festival, and then the film began.

Tobey Maguire plays Nick Carraway, a wannabe writer working as a stock broker who lives next to the mythic Gatsby in Long Island. The film begins years in the future where Carraway is being treated in an asylum for alcoholism and drug abuse. His doctor entreats him to write about his past to tease out the depression that haunts him. Carraway narrates (and writes) the story of the brief friendship that spiraled into a web of deceit, sex, and death. Through the writing process, Carraway comes to terms with his part in the story and serves as its moral compass.

Luhrmann recreates the roaring 1920s with 3D treatment, elaborate sets, dazzling costumes, and modern music—this time a hip hop soundscape provided by executive producer Jay-Z. The start of the film is as frenetic as one of Gatsby’s elaborate parties. Fast-moving shots quickly shift to sweeping overhead angles. Some of these shots illustrate the drunken state of the characters, but en masse they create sensory overload. The adaptation overuses narration to accompany the visuals, effectively telegraphing the first third of the film. Eventually the story settles as a compelling look into the soul of a man driven by love at all costs. DiCaprio turns in another solid performance, navigating the confidence, vulnerability, and passion of Gatsby. Meanwhile, the remaining cast works as a strong ensemble. Mulligan’s performance is underwhelming, but the script doesn’t give her much with which to work. The 3D is immersive, further demonstrating that a skilled director can make 3D an experience, not just a movie. This elaborate adaptation crafted by Luhrmann lifts the novel out of the past and makes the themes of greed, hope, and love relevant to audiences of today.

Limité Rating: 4/5

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Screenwriters: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher

Distributor: Warner Bros.

TRT: 142 min.


Release: Currently in theatres

The 2013 Cannes Film Festival runs from May 15 – 26 in Cannes, France.

Follow Limité Senior Film Contributor Stephanie Dawson and her personal exploits in Cannes on her blog,

posted by: Stephanie Dawson
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