Can The Great Gatsby live up to the hype?

The countdown to Baz Luhrmann's blockbuster has begun, but can the film match the generous insights into its star-studded cast and soundtrack? asks Susanna Lazarus

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When it comes to the cinema, I appreciate an air of mystery – a hard-won commodity in the modern entertainment industry where trailer upon trailer predates the release of the biggest blockbusters.

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By the time I saw Skyfall I felt frustratingly familiarised with the film’s many thrills, and it predictably dulled its impact. Not to say Skyfall was a bad film – far from it – but I’d have enjoyed it much more if I hadn’t already witnessed 007’s close brush with a commuter tube or his tense opening run-in with an industrial digger. I spent the entirety of the film’s lengthy build-up fearing it could never match its hype, and luckily I was proved wrong. But now I find myself experiencing that familiar lurking feeling with The Great Gatsby.

I have adored F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel ever since I first read it aged 16. After studying it at A-Level, it became the subject of my dissertation and my dog-eared, battered copy remains a frequently-referenced fixture of my bookshelf.

So, naturally, I struggled to contain my excitement when Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming adaptation was first announced – not only was the mastermind behind the grandiose reworkings of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge going to turn his hand to my favourite book, but Leonardo DiCaprio would attempt to eclipse Robert Redford’s iconic turn in the leading role.

And thus, in the build up to its May 16 release date, I have duly pored over each of the trailers (all three of them) in an attempt to whet my already-eager appetite. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The first teaser – released in June last year – offered us Tobey Maguire’s silky narration mashed with the beats of Jay Z and Kanye’s No Church in the Wild and Jack White’s Love Is Blindness, showcasing Luhrmann’s gorgeous resurrection of the Roaring Twenties. Plenty of footage to get excited about, an abundance of flapper-inspired glitz and jewels – and a reassuring reproduction of some of Fitzgerald’s most recited dialogue. 

Trailer two debuted three months ago, charting Gatsby’s fabricated recreation of himself, alongside fizzing footage of his decadent parties and a tantalising preview of his and Daisy’s (Carey Mulligan) passionate love affair, this time mixing in the screeching vocals of Filter for added effect. 

And then came the release of the film’s third trailer yesterday, blowing all expectations out of the water – because when you mould Beyoncé’s sensuous reworking of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black with Lana Del Rey’s melancholic vocals and Florence Welch’s impressive lungs, you achieve all the oppressive tension, acute emotion and grand setting of Fitzgerald’s iconic tale in a neat three-minute bundle.

Now, it’s all but guaranteed that Baz’s visually stunning trails will ensure the most anxious of literature purists purchase their cinema tickets – but, the more I re-watch the available footage, the greater my nagging feeling that this film can’t possibly match its lofty expectations. And I know I’m not alone.

Originally scheduled for Christmas Day, The Great Gatsby’s postponement until May only served to heighten its hype amongst eager fans, and the onslaught of teasers and trailers has served as a mixed blessing. With so many crucial plot twists already available for viewers to scrutinise, what do Warner Brothers have left in store for the film itself?

Add to the publicity trail the announcement of a star-studded, Jay-Z produced soundtrack earlier this week – featuring a song list that rivals the film’s A-list cast – and it seems like just about everyone wants to jump aboard the Gatsby bandwagon. 

Of course, I’m fully aware how foolish it must sound to spend my time worrying about the credentials of a film not due for release for another month and a half, but with the buzz of excitement being generated in industry circles, and the overload of tantalising footage, I can’t help but find myself presented with a project that seems just too good to be true. Like Gatsby’s green light – almost within grasp, but not quite tangible…  


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The Great Gatsby is released in UK cinemas on 16 May 2013