If you read the lines "always try to see the best in people" and "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had" as identical in meaning and resonance and social guilt, then you will have no quarrel with this movie. It's big and bold and beautiful and plays excitingly with period boundaries (in Baz Luhrmann's carefully-crafted dreamworld you're not sure half the time whether you're in the 20s, 60s or the 90s: the music and dancing zooms disconcertingly in and out of the decades). And it must have cost a lot. But it abandons most of the subtleties of the book for a bit of a circus.
Which wouldn't be weird except for the homage that the movie is obviously trying to create for the book. Too obviously - on several occasions, lines from the text are actually floated on to the screen, stretching and dissolving in the manner of a web banner advert. It's an interesting experiment but not quite a successful one.
It strikes me as a very anxious film. Especially at the beginning. The camera's never still for a minute, always giving us odd angles and speeded sequences and cool zooms. Tom's sporting prowess has to be "established" by his dragging the narrator through a spurious hall of trophies and cups. His badness has to be established by a couple of token racist remarks and a Moseley moustache. It's as though the film's creators had so little faith in the story to hold the attention of a modern audience that they have to spell everything out: nothing can be shown, or insinuated, or freely acted.
The actors do an excellent job under these restrictions. Tobey Maguire makes Carraway, a fundamentally annoying character, sympathetic, and Elizabeth Debicki and Carey Mulligan are admirably restrained in their relatively tiny parts as The Girls.
di Caprio is looking very good for his 40-odd years and does a decent edgy electric vulnerability, a la Johnny Depp as Michael Jackson/Willy Wonka. He's not as stunning as he was in The Aviator, but then a great deal more is being asked of him because the script is supporting him a lot less: how many actors would like to have to make and hold the famous Gatsby smile (the description of its insightful, compassionate qualities goes on for a whole paragraph) while that very paragraph is being voiced over by the narrator?
Having said that, the pace and the humour and the spectacles make it very watchable. The audience is awed, carried away and amused in the right places. And that's entertainment.
If I were an English teacher I would take my sixth form to see it. But the task I would set them later would be to contrast two different pieces of work on the same theme - the novel The Great Gatsby and what one comes away automatically thinking of as GATSBY: The Movie.