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Movie review: 'The Great Gatsby'

Director Baz Luhrmann's penchant for operatic excess often seems at war with his obvious regard for the lyrical, keyed-up brilliance of F. Scott Fitzgerald's language and his tragic love story.
BY DENNIS KING Modified: May 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm •  Published: May 10, 2013

As Nick finds himself pulled deeply into the world of the super rich and seduced by Gatsby's intoxicating vision of romance and life reinvented, the stage is set for a harrowing tragedy that reveals the dark, decadent underside of the American dream.

Luhrmann's “Gatsby” stands in stark contrast to the last effort to film the novel — director Jack Clayton's 1974 version, a prim and decorous period piece that had Robert Redford as Gatsby, Sam Waterston as Nick and Mia Farrow as Daisy. Employing occasionally effective but largely unnecessary 3-D effects and interspersing riffs of hip-hop and contemporary music into the period score, Luhrmann's version is anything but period prim. It's throbbing with energy and a jumpy, off-kilter vibe that aptly echoes the youthful impatience and yearning of the Jazz Age.

While literary purists might balk at Luhrmann's poetic liberties and his ringmaster style, his flamboyant film makes a strong case for the durability and timelessness of Fitzgerald's classic. Even tarted up in the most garish of cinema finery, “The Great Gatsby” retains its essential dignity through all the frenzy.

— Dennis King