It doesn’t open in the UK for another nine days, and we’ve only had a trickle of reviews from US critics so far, but it seems Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby is already dividing opinion…
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Muligan, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher, The Great Gatsby tells the story of a group of hedonistic young acquaintances navigating the extravagant parties and loose morals of the roaring twenties. The story follows Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire), who moves in next door to the mysterious Gatsby (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and is drawn into his world.
The film, from the director behind Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet, was moved from its original release date, taking itself out of the running for awards season. Now it’s ready to be released to be cinema-going public, can the much-anticipated film live up to the hype?
The Wrap‘s Alonso Duralde certainly didn’t think so, saying: “the Luhrmann touch feels more like a smudge, covering up the vitality of the original material.”
According to Duralde even the star-studded cast failed to improve the film: “It doesn’t help that the cast feels like they’re in different movies — and none of them are movies you’d particularly want to see.” And he concludes that “the cardinal sin of this new “Gatsby” is that it’s dull… This film marks the official moment in which Baz Luhrmann’s signature style has become self-parody.”
Todd McCarthy’s review for The Hollywood Reporter, on the other hand, was a little warmer. McCarthy was quick to mention the film’s “razzle-dazzle and razzmatazz”, going on to say: “As is inevitable with the Australian showman, who’s never met a scene he didn’t think could be improved by more music, costumes, extras and camera tricks, this enormous production begins by being over-the-top and moves on from there.”
After musing that some of the book’s intricacies are perhaps lost in the theatre of the film, he went on to say: “The cast is first-rate, the ambiance and story provide a measure of intoxication and, most importantly, the core thematic concerns pertaining to the American dream, self-reinvention and love lost, regained and lost again are tenaciously addressed”
Giving it three and a half stars, the New York Post said Gatsby was “surprisingly satisfying as a dramatization of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel.” Clearly impressed by Lurhmann’s depiction of Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle, reviewer Lou Lumenick went on to day: “it’s the closest any of us will ever get to that gilded and vulgar age of nearly a century ago” before concluding that the film “may not be truly great but certainly stands out like a beacon in a sea of silly blockbusters.”
Variety was another publication to focus on Luhrmann’s penchant for the extravagant, saying: “to accuse Luhrmann of overkill is a bit like faulting a leopard for his spots. Love it or hate it, take it or leave it, this is unmistakably his “Gatsby” through and through, and as with all such carte-blanche extravaganzas (increasingly rare in this cautious Hollywood age), it exudes an undeniable fascination — at least for a while.” But while the film’s visuals seemed to get the thumbs up, this reviewer was less than impressed by Luhrmann’s interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic characters, saying: “Periodically, as if by accident, something like real emotion pokes up through the film’s well-manicured surface.”
Whether or not Luhrmann’s focus on the visual has detracted from the story itself is a question plenty of reviewers were striving to answer. Giving the film a C-, Indiewire concluded: “the sprawling tale of millionaire loner Jay Gatsby (a confident Leonardo DiCaprio) yearning to be reunited with former flame Daisy (Carey Mulligan on mopey autopilot) has been rendered as a series of soap opera interludes in between the director’s typically dazzling setpieces.” Reviewer Eric Kohn then went on to criticise the “jarring” soundtrack and “hopelessly theatrical” acting, before conceding that “Gatsby is one glitzy misfire.”
The New Yorker seemed to agree, describing the film as “hyperactive”, “garish and violent, with tangled blasts of music”, before stating that “Luhrmann may have miscalculated.” The Huffington Post proffered a less than favourable review too, saying : “The film is everything the trailer promises — loud, frenetic and fun — but when the style-over-substance take on the material wears thin, what’s left are some subpar performances and a lot of voice-over narration.”
The Great Gatsby is in UK cinemas 16 May