Luhrmann is best known for Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet. (Fun Fact – that movie also starred Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Gatsby in this film). The director uses modern music from such artists as U2 and Jay-Z which successfully give the film a modern flair, and many teenagers who read the novel in school went to see the movie.
That said – the film isn’t appropriate for young teens and children. While never overly explicit, the villain, Tom, can be clearly heard having sex with his mistress in one scene and there are many sexual situations. Also, there’s explicit drug and alcohol use, and two on-screen deaths.
So why does the film fall short? Because, too often, the film’s voice over tells us key information that isn’t dramatized. The Narrator says, “Gatsby was the most hopeful person I’d ever met.” But we never see Gatsby prove that concept, so the impact isn’t there. This is especially a problem because this is a very complex story with many gray areas. For example, Gatsby is a self-made millionaire deeply in love with Daisy Fey. Therefore, one roots for this man who embodies the American dream and you want him to win his lady love. However, she’s already married, and Gatsby made his millions through organized crime. He gained the world but sold his soul. It’s the tragedy of a legendary character, the Great Gatsby, falling from grace. While the movie tells us this is happening, it fails to capture it visually or emotionally. Ultimately, the film fails to make you care, and though it’s gorgeous to watch, it misses being great.