Who better to bring Fitzgerald’s classic novel about decadence, romance and thwarted love to the big screen than film’s very own ring man, Baz Luhrman (Romeo & Juliet, The Moulin Rouge). The Great Gatsby (1925), a novel set in the Jazz Age (1920s) in which wealthy characters live elaborate lives revolving around excess and parties, seems an almost obvious and yet very exciting choice for this Australian director. Luhrman loves to take audiences on whirring rides into palpable worlds that attack the senses like a million carnivals; worlds of illusion and fantastical frivolity. In short, what Baz Luhrman’s films offer is pure unadulterated entertainment but with intense and suspenseful narrative cores, and this film, which has also been shot in 3D, could be his greatest ride yet.
This is the novel’s fifth film adaption, the most famous of which is Jack Clayton’s Academy Award-winning 1974 film, scripted by Francis Ford Coppola. However, it has been argued that it’s one of the least adaptable films, along with the On The Road by Kerouac. What could set this latest attempt aside is that it is definitely a Baz Luhrman film and not simply just another adaptation. It showcases Luhrman’s signature style – dramatic camera work, over the top party costumes, fireworks to deliver a whirlwind of parties, passion and prestige: an unapologetic nose dive into the Jazz Age in all its glory. However, once again Luhrman’s added a modern edge to a classic. The film (set to be released in December) begins, not with the Charleston, but controversially, a Kanye West/Jay Z collaboration. Lurman’s parties are not simply replicas of those held in the 1920’s New York. This film is not a history lesson, nor is it a direct adaptation. Luhrman’s combined eras; the lavish lifestyles of the Jazz Age meets modern Hollywood/jet set Manhattan, two extravagant worlds who’s only difference is time. The result of this is a fresh new spectacle.
Staying true to the novel, Luhrman subtly reveals a darker side to all the partying: an undercurrent of profligacy and vacuity. Like in Romeo & Juliet, he presents a hard critical gaze over the American Dream. In more contemplative moments we get to see other, sometimes hidden, dimensions to the characters thanks to strong performances by Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby), Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchanen) and Tobey Maguire (Nick Carraway). Albeit, this film may be fun, it may be over the top, but it’s certainly not fluffy.
by Kerry Flint