Gatsby is my homeboy.
This Christmas, I’m getting everything I ever wanted: 2 Leonardo DiCaprio films opening on the same day. First, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and now The Great Gatsby.
Well, the first glimpse of Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby has arrived, in all it’s hip-hop blasting, anachronistic splendor. Watching the the two and a half minute trailer is like watching forty-five clowns run out of a Volkswagen Beetle — 0r maybe, a yellow Rolls Royce. It’s almost too much.
The film, like the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, appears to be narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who has a great voice for the part. His introduction to New York in 1922 is set to the Kanye West/Jay-Z collaboration “No Church in the Wild.” Word. Those familiar with the novel will see familiar images — Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) speeding down a desolate street in a bright yellow Rolls Royce, Gatsby showing Daisy his collection of expensive English shirts, Nick and Gatsby walking along a long dock.
There are some new scenes, like Daisy diving into a bright green pool (symbolism overload) and Gatsby and Daisy rolling around in bed together. There are also other glimpses of the classic 1920s wealth that characterizes The Great Gatsby — huge West Egg parties in lavish mansions, beaded flapper dresses, crystal chandeliers, flowing champagne, and enough decadent costumes to make your head spin. Oh, and fireworks. Because apparently we can’t have a Baz Luhrmann film without fireworks (see: Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge). He also misspelled the Ziegfeld Follies on the Times Square marquee — oops. Hopefully someone in post-production can fix that hiccup ASAP…
Lurhmann is known for his excess, and for his brash, frenetically-paced films. Lots of Gatsby fanatics are already upset by his new dissection of this classic work, and even more are upset by his attempt at a re-do of the 1974 Gatsby adaptation with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
I remember a similar backlash against Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet back in 1996. People thought that his adaptation was almost disrespectful to the 1968 Zeffirelli’s version. Personally, I never mind a revisit to something that’s already been done, especially when an interpretation is so fundamentally different. Movies are like library books – you need to keep the old, but appreciate the new. Understand that as a whole, the new generation of moviegoers isn’t going to have the same affection for actors who were popular over 40 years ago as they do current ones. Does that mean that the older version is defunct? No, but breathing new life into something isn’t necessarily blasphemous.
I absolutely loved what Lurhmann did with Romeo and Juliet. I thought DiCaprio and Danes had amazing chemistry, and the supporting cast was incredible. I thought that he brilliantly illustrated the restlessness of the two teenagers, and their isolation from their dizzying, incessant, materialistic environment — a combination of gritty Miami Beach and Mexico City. There are guns, souped-up cars, pink hair, Hawaiian shirts, prostitutes, and gangs — all set to a phenomenal soundtrack that I still keep on my iPod. It was all systems go — campy, but with enough restraint when necessary.
But some people hated it. Roger Ebert wrote in his review that he had “never seen anything remotely approaching the mess that the new punk version of “Romeo & Juliet” makes of Shakespeare’s tragedy.”
I think this sums up Baz Lurhmann – you either love him or you hate him. And I think Gatsby will be no different. We’ll just have to wait and see. Personally, I would pay money to see Leo in any love scene, particularly in 3-D.
I worry though, about applying the Lurhmann varnish to a text like Gatsby that’s so simple and figurative, and full of symbolism. Will we even make out that subtle green light at the end of the dock amidst so many fireworks?