Baz Luhrmann was undoubtedly a contentious choice to helm this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous work.  Clearly latching onto the decadence and opulence of 1920s society, Luhrmann's vision is undoubtedly visually arresting - as always - but he does not seem to quite know how to apply his visual sensiblity to the storytelling in a harmonious fashion.

This is most evident in the film's first act, which feels like an extended trailer for the film rather than a succession of scenes.  This keeps us at arm's length from getting to know our characters, specifically Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who serves as our narrator - via a framing device wherein he's receiving therapy for various afflictions.  Maguire seems a little uncomfortable and detached from everything that occurs in the film, whilst Carraway is merely an observer - summed up by his reflections that he is both "within and without", the same feels true of Maguire himself.  Lacking any way into the character we then lack any way into the film.

Meeting up with his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), her wealthy husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), and their friend golf-pro Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki), the relationships are rather plainly laid out.  Tom, whilst played with boorish swagger by Edgerton, is so lazily the villain of the piece that it's even more baffling whilst Daisy would have married him.  Mulligan meanwhile plays Daisy as perhaps too innocent and aloof, but one does have to wonder - as much as the novel allows this, film seems less certain - how reliable our narrator, and therefore our viewpoint, is in 'accurately' depicting the characteristics of people.  Whilst Debicki gives a very charismatic performance, her character itself is of so little consequence it all feels somewhat in vain.

Nick is swept up, firstly, into Tom's world.  Tom is having an affair with the wife of a gas station attendent, she - Myrtle (Isla Fisher) - believes that he's going to eventually emancipate her from her dull, ashen existence.  Nick is easily seduced by alcohol, but he clearly finds confrontation and emotion difficult things to deal with, preferring to see a more simplistic, honest and optimistic view of the world.

Perhaps that's why he is ultimately seduced by Gatsby.  Invited to one of his parties, Nick finally meets the titular character that he's heard so much about, and Leonardo DiCaprio is rather perfectly cast as this elusive and charismatic figure.  There is an air, especially in the scene in which Gatsby presents Carraway with evidence of his achievements, that he's a magician performing some elaborate trick, and he naively believes the magic is real as much as Nick, who becomes his most adoring fan.  DiCaprio manages to convey a sense of an awkward, romantic, idealistic child hidden behind this smooth, exterior of Gatsby, that forms part of an intriguing triangle alongside the more shady dealings the character is involved with.

Unfortunately though, most of this good work is squandered by a film that doesn't really know the story it's telling, the essence of the book is lost somewhere behind the glittery, glitz and pulsing soundtrack.  Whereas his previous (and marvellous) 'Red Curtain' films were all informed by their decadence and musicality, or (the much maligned, but I actually really enjoyed it) Australia was a heightened ode to melodramatic film-making of the 40s and 50s, the elaboration on display here feels like excess for excess's sake.

I could not help think of Stephen Fry's underrated and brilliant adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies (the film is called Bright Young Things) as a much more poignant and intelligently realised depiction of hollow excess.  There is, with Luhrmann's film, no sense of irony to the manner in which he employs his visual splendour upon proceedings, the only irony being that a film that should be exposing the superficial vacuousness of an era is guilty of the same superficial vacuousness!

Ulimately the film is a tedious shambles, dramatic moments whimper, scenes feel half-baked, ill-conceived, at times the film is in an interminable rush, and then - especially come the end of the second act - it grinds to a numbing crawl.  By and large it suffers from not having a strong enough conflict ticking away palpably, when tensions do surface the film begins to work, but by and large it's a dull, slight and - most heinously - boring film.