Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: The Great Gatsby is a Case of Style Over Substance

Plus, Peeples is warm but predictable.

by | May 10, 2013 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got an enigmatic millionaire (The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan) and a tense family gathering (Peeples, starring Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington). What do the critics have to say?

The Great Gatsby

Since its publication in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has beckoned filmmakers like a green light at the end of a pier. Unfortunately, their efforts have tended to be the cinematic equivalent of winning Daisy Buchanan’s heart — lavish exercises in futility. Critics say Baz Luhrmann‘s opulent take on Gatsby continues the trend — it looks fantastic and features a fine lead performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, but it misses the nuanced, melancholy spirit of the novel. In case you slept through English class in high school, here’s the plot: Yale grad and World War I vet Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is drawn into the orbit of Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), a mysterious millionaire who throws extravagant parties and flaunts the trappings of affluence in an effort to win the heart of Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who’s married to a rich jerk. The pundits say The Great Gatsby never lacks for spectacle, but what’s missing is the heart beneath the glitz. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of films based on classic books.)


If you’re going to attempt a Meet the Parents-style comedy, you have to work hard to distinguish yourself. Unfortunately, critics say Peeples is a warm, amiable farce that offers a few chuckles but mostly falls back on predictable plotting and an overwrought message. Grace (Kerry Washington) joins her well-to-do family for a reunion in the Hamptons. Her fiancé, an aspiring musician named Wade (Craig Robinson), crashes the party to announce their impending nuptials and embarrasses himself in an attempt to fit in with the family. The pundits say Robinson and Washington are appealing as always, but there’s only so much they can do with the film’s clichéd script. (Check out this week’s Total Recall for a countdown of the best-reviewed directorial work of Peeples producer Tyler Perry, as well as our video interviews with the cast.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Stories We Tell, director Sarah Polley‘s documentary portrait of her family and its secrets, is at 93 percent.
  • Sightseers, a comedy about a couple who go on a road trip to see various landmarks and inadvertently initiate a killing spree, is Certified Fresh at 83 percent.
  • The Painting, a French animated feature about groups of painted characters who go on a journey to understand the origin of their creation, is at 83 percent.
  • Venus And Serena, a documentary about the relationship between the tennis-star sisters, is at 80 percent.
  • The Source Family, a doc about the rock-‘n’-rollin’ new religious movement, is at 78 percent.
  • One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das, a doc about an aspiring rock singer who ditched his possessions and moved to India in search of enlightenment, is at 67 percent.
  • Aftershock, produced by and starring Eli Roth in a horror film about a group of clubgoers trapped underground after a massive earthquake, is at 42 percent (watch our interview with Roth here).
  • No One Lives, starring Luke Evans in a horror film about a man who turns the tables on a ruthless gang of kidnappers, is at 22 percent
  • And Now A Word From Our Sponsor, starring Bruce Greenwood and Parker Posey in a comedy about the head of an advertising agency who speaks only in commercial slogans after suffering a nervous breakdown, is at zero percent.
  • Java Heat, starring Mickey Rourke and Kellan Lutz in an action thriller about the hunt for a terrorist in Indonesia, is at zero percent.

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