The Great Gatsby is an American classic. But that hasn’t stopped Australian director Baz Luhrmann from bringing his trademark style to the tale, set to a provocatively modern soundtrack.
With Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, the movie depicts the wild glamour and energy of Roaring Twenties America, while also evoking a “hollow” feeling at the heart of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s era-defining 1925 novel.
DiCaprio co-stars in the movie with Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton. Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan also plays a small part in the movie, as a shadowy organized crime figure who helps the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby make his money.
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby (2013)
Shot in Australia, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a sumptuous production which seems to follow Gatsby’s own rule for the parties he throws of constant excess.
As in some of his past movies, the Australian uses anachronistically modern music in period pieces, here getting Gatsby’s guests to dance to Jay-Z, Florence and The Machine, Fergie, Beyoncé, Jack White or Nero.
The filmmaker explained that he used these kind of songs to “liberate” actors on set, notably in one orgy scene.
“We were about 20 minutes away from wrapping and we still hadn’t gotten that kind of wild party feel,” he said “So I got all these props and things. I said, ‘We have 20 minutes left: let’s turn all the cameras on and go for it.
“And right in the middle of the jazz, I just turned up very very loudly a track called NIP, which is a Jay-Z track which was mixed with jazz, and things took off.”
Reviews however, have been mixed, with industry journal Variety lamenting that “no degree of visual opulence can ultimately free this picture from its lumbering and unimaginative fidelity to the page,” of the original novel.
Online film website TheWrap was even more blunt.
Under the headline “How Many Flappers Make a Flop?” it wrote: “Baz Luhrmann sucks the life out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s immortal novel and replaces it with empty filigree and overbearing style.”
The Great Gatsby is out in Singapore cinemas on May 16, 2013.