As a wry, taciturn onlooker, Tobey Maguire delivers one of his best performances in The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway in Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a satirical narrator and a taciturn observer. In the movie, he’s pretty much the same, except he’s a guy writing his own memories in a mental hospital. He is as abstract as the titular Gatsby himself. Somehow, Toby Maguire He’s played similar roles most of his life and seems to be close to his personality, which fits the spectacle of 2013 well, perhaps more so than any other actor. It was a show that didn’t get the credit it deserved, as many people turned him out for being wrongly chosen. Maguire, however, brought out the man’s deeper and broken side with masterful restraint. He’s not trying to steal the limelight from Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby; he paints a sad image of himself in this tale of pain, loss, and betrayal. He humanized Nick Callaway and brought his pain to life. Maguire’s performance didn’t stir up a ton of emotion, but felt like a brief, sharp and painful stab wound, the quiet subtlety that Scott Fitzgerald intended in the novel.

The novel encapsulates the 1920s, an era of over-hedonism, jazz age, speakeasy, reflecting the various timelines of Fitzgerald’s youth. Exuding opulence and heartbreak, the film, while striving to stay true to the novel’s theme, is a period drama set in modern pop music with elements of psychological thriller. The story is told from the perspective of Maguire’s Nick Callaway, an unreliable narrator who writes his memoirs in a mental hospital on the advice of a therapist. It’s a tricky plot device, but the movie does it well. He started talking about Jay Gatsby, who was “the most hopeful man he ever met.” It may sound odd that such a twisted tale of potential deceit would even have a hint of hope as wholesome, but Maguire’s Nick Callaway has you convinced it really is. Gatsby is not a hero, rather, he is someone you would think twice before starting to support. Still, Maguire brings out a quiet admiration, an almost repressed jealousy of him, and slowly you begin to believe that Gatsby isn’t a bad guy, just, you know, someone who engages in illegal activities from time to time.

We go back in time to see Nick Callaway, as a disillusioned Midwesterner, trying to make a difference. He moved next door to Gatsby’s palatial mansion and tried to make himself a stockbroker. While the first half of the film focuses on luxury, the second half cuts to the heart of the story: the real dynamics between the characters. Gatsby’s passion for the weak-willed Daisy (Kerry Mulligan), who loses out to the rather rude and cruel Tom Buchanan. He uses Nick to try to get her back, and of course things get out of hand and people’s real motives come to light, almost turning it into a dark drama. Tom framed Gatsby for a crime he didn’t commit, and was Daisy’s accomplice. Gatsby was shot after being portrayed by the media as the murderer. Disgusted Nick leaves town, vowing never to return – however, he takes back the lessons of Gatsby’s illusory power of hope.

Nick sees real people in Gatsby, except for his suave charm, someone who lives in a world of “dirty rich people” but doesn’t quite belong there. Nick understands that he’s the only one holding on to the American Dream, because everything else seems like a pointless luxury. Nick pays a final tribute to Gatsby at the end of the film: “They’re a bunch of shit. You deserve all the damn bunch.”

The Great Gatsby is definitely one of Tobey Maguire’s low-key films. Even though the film often gets lost in its own grandeur, Maguire quietly stands out, perfectly balancing Leonardo DiCaprio’s mutilated antihero.

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