'The Great Gatsby' One Big Scene: Finally, An Invite to Leo's Lavish Party

One Big Scene is a weekly column dedicated to spectacular visual sequences we’re recommending you see in the theater. If you have ones you’d like us to write about, let us know in the comments section.

Compared to the behemoths coming this summer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby might not look like an obvious candidate for One Big Scene. Sandwiched between such effects-driven blockbusters as Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness, Gatsby could be mistaken for a dry, adult literary adaptation that might repel summer-going audiences.  
 
But that just means you forgot, temporarily, that Gatsby was directed by Baz Luhrmann. 
 
The man behind Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet delivers a bold, brash, arrogant and elegant take on Fitzgerald’s novel, re-imagining a forgotten New York with a candy-coated sheen that’s shattered by a gaggle of powerful performances. The movie pulses, and dazzles in one scene in particular. We’ll talk about that below, but first, the Gatsby reviews.
 
What Critics are Saying:
“This is a film which takes classic source material and imbues it on screen with a sense of wonder commensurate to its prior form, perhaps offering an even more visceral impression of the possibilities inherent to this beautiful, tragic world.”
- Richard Larson, Slant Magazine
 
“The cast is first-rate, the ambiance and story provide a measure of intoxication and, most importantly, the core thematic concerns pertaining to the American dream, self-reinvention and love lost, regained and lost again are tenaciously addressed.”
- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
 
“A movie that may not be truly great but certainly stands out like a beacon in a sea of silly blockbusters.”
- Lou Lumenick, New York Post
 
The Scene:
To understand the scene I chose, one must understand Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the man. To most, he’s a symbol of wealth and power, of achievement but also mystery. He’s best known for the lavish parties he throws in his Long Island mansion, though he rarely attends and no one knows the reason for each soiree. 
 
You have seen hints of the Gatsby parties in the trailers, with hundreds of beautiful people cramming into the host’s expansive, bayside residence to drinks, dance and find romance. A lot has been made of Luhrmann’s decision to pair his action with a contemporary hip-hop soundtrack (produced by Jay-Z, no less), and that marriage works best in the film’s assorted party scenes. 
 
The first celebration is the best, though, with Luhrmann’s camera’s following the movie’s narrator, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he looks for the man who sent him an invitation to the evening’s festivities. Luhrmann maintains control in the chaos, capturing streamers, confetti and fireworks displays as he builds to a fantastic DiCaprio reveal and the quote, “I’m Gatsby.” 
 
Someone in the film refers to a “kaleidoscopic carnival,” and that sums up Gatsby, in a nutshell. It’s a fun ride, marked by sentimental highs and lows and buoyed by several notable performances. But when Gatsby’s neighbors come by for a party, that’s when we hit our One Big Scene. 
 

 
Follow along on Twitter @Sean_OConnell and @Fandango
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