Thursday, May 16, 2013
ALL THAT JAZZ AGE
With Baz Luhrmann in the driver's seat, the slick, shiny roadster that is The Great Gatsby could go either way. This meeting of the florid visual stylist (Moulin Rouge) and F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel of the Jazz Age might be a head-on collision of inappropriate style, anachronistic music, and frantic bombast over substance. Or it might just as easily be a brilliant reimagining of an American classic revitalized for a new generation.
In fact, there are glimmers of each of these possible scenarios in Luhrmann's Gatsby. Fortunately, the more self-conscious stylistic touches—jarring Jay-Z rap music to convey the frenetic energy of the postwar Twenties; gigantic, overly-choreographed party sequences shot from above like Busby Berkeley routines—mostly occur early on, while Luhrmann is setting his stage.
Once the set-up is established, Luhrmann ditches most of his tricks, letting the characters and their agendas propel the story for a surprisingly faithful and urgent account of Fitzgerald's enduring tale of class, money, and shipwrecked dreams.
To make use of Fitzgerald's shrewd observations on a war-weary America caught in the act of reinventing itself, Luhrmann employs a framing device set in post-Crash 1929. The novel's narrator, aspiring writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), now being treated for alcoholism, is encouraged to write down the story of his former neighbor and friend, the famously rich and elusive Jay Gatsby.
As the tale unfolds in Nick's memory, a great deal of Fitzgerald's prose (occasionally even scrawling across the screen) is effectively preserved.
Leonardo DiCaprio's delusional Gatsby comes complete with alluring smile, mystery, and vulnerability intact. And Luhrmann's attention to period detail is fabulous, from the gorgeous black and white Warner Bros. logo at the beginning to the Deco-licious costumes and production design, both by Catherine Martin. (Read more)