8:00 PM, 25th July, 2013
Not really a big fan of Baz Luhrmann’s directing style, I went to see The Great Gatsby expecting to dislike it but ended up quite enjoying it. Attempting to define Luhrmann’s style I am tempted to say that he is a latter-day Busby Berkeley: the great director of spectacular musical extravaganzas from the 1930s to mid-’50s – famous for tightly choreographed complex large-scale geometric formation-dancing / swimming scenes; and imaginative camera angles including top shots of the formations.
Luhrmann’s forté is music and imagery. As well as his innovative Romeo and Juliet, Luhrmann’s films have been either musicals (Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge) or feature big, choreographed, party scenes (Australia). The Great Gatsby is no exception, and the ‘look’ of the movie is fabulous. David Stratton said that the movie is ‘almost a musical’; and New York Times’ AO Scott said ‘the result is less a conventional movie adaptation than a splashy, trashy opera, a wayward, lavishly theatrical celebration’.
Having said that, Luhrmann, ‘the enfant terriblé from down under’, has delivered a film that is true to F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel of ‘the American dream’ and 1920s excess, with some of the film’s dialogue and Nick Carraway’s (Maguire) narration coming straight from the book. An older and worldlier DiCaprio is strong in the title role, ably supported by Carey Mulligan as Daisy and with solid performances by Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s arrogant ‘old money’ husband; and Elizabeth Debicki. Overall: well worth the effort.