The Great Gatsby

I'm pretty sure I was in the minority of serious film watchers who enjoyed Baz Luhrmann's Australia (2008). I didn't mind its outrageous implausibility because it was so visually arresting and overwrought. I actually enjoyed it more than the director's first "big-boned" work, Moulin Rouge (2001), a stagy phantasmagoria with music, which has much more in common with Luhrmann's latest, The Great Gatsby, than it does with Australia, I feel. Luhrmann has raised the bar for his already storied cinematic showmanship with the stunningly beautiful and busy Gatsby, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the enigmatic bazillionaire Jay Gatsby, Tobey MaGuire as Gatsby acolyte / neighbor and the film's narrator Nick Carraway, and Carrie Mulligan (Shame) as Carraway's fickle and spoiled cousin Daisy Buchanan. Working with such familiar material as Fitzgerald best-loved work would pose challenges for the most seasoned and imaginative of film-makers but Luhrmann gives the work his usual wildly impressionistic treatment, leaving the story (such as it is) intact and spinning dazzling set pieces of 1920's Long Island and Manhattan bacchanalia that feature players in numbers rivaling those of a DeMille epic. Executive Producer Jay-Z's hip-hoppy fingerprints are all over the soundtrack, an anachronism that is signature Luhrmann (witness Moulin Rouge). Just as Spielberg did in Tin-tin, Scorsese did in Hugo, and Ang Lee in The Life of Pi, Luhrmann employs 3-D technology intelligently and meaningfully though certainly not conservatively. Roadsters speed along gravel by-ways kicking up dust and rock, colored confetti drifts down like snow upon the revelers at one of Gatsby's notorious parties and secret dalliances in arbored gardens are obscured by leafy branches.  The film has an abundance of texture layers as bedding for what I feel are too often pedestrian performances. Still, its a visually delightful re-imagining. Recommended..


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