The reviews are in for Baz Luhrmann’s epically mounted display of bacchanalia “The Great Gatsby,” which opens in the US on Friday before premiering again at Cannes on May 15. As expected, the film is incredibly divisive.
Our own Anne Thompson enjoys the film’s swirling visuals but finds the film, at almost two-and-a-half hours, rather thin dramatically (you could probably read Fitzgerald’s novel in less time):
Finally, this is the kind of film where you hum the sets, as they say in Hollywood. It’s outrageously designed by Luhrmann’s wife, brilliant production designer Catherine Martin, who delivers the Gatsby manse’s shining turrets, gleaming parquet floors, elaborate chandeliers and a mighty gold Wurlitzer organ, but should also earn an Oscar nomination for her gorgeous over-the-top costumes, including the Daisy Buchanan show-topper, a chandelier party dress designed by Miuccia Prada… But when Luhrmann returns for another round of parties, it’s a letdown. Finally this overproduced slimmest of narratives becomes repetitive…
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that bling in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby,” which arrives six months after its originally scheduled December release date but maintains something of a gussied-up holiday feel, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as staged by Liberace. Indeed, it comes as little surprise that the Aussie auteur behind the gaudy, more-is-more spectacles “Moulin Rouge” and “Australia” has delivered a “Gatsby” less in the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel than in that of its eponymous antihero — a man who believes bejeweled excess will help him win the heart of the one thing his money can’t buy.
Opulence defines the production values, led by Martin’s sets and costumes. As for the use of 3D by Luhrmann and cinematographer Simon Duggan, it is probably the most naturalistic aspect of the film; only rarely do you notice it in a pronounced way and yet it really does add something to the experience, drawing you in as if escorting you through a series of opening gates, doors and emotional states.
One of the most famous scenes from the book comes early on, when Gatsby is showing Daisy this world that he’s built for her benefit… And all I could think of was James Franco showing off to Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens, rattling off everything he owns and spitting out his repeated mantra, “Lookit my sheeeeeeit.” That is who Gatsby would be today, self-invented and wrapped in the most modern trappings possible… “Spring Breakers” feels like it understands that character in a way that this “Gatsby” can’t, smothered as it is in a world of total artifice. “The Great Gatsby” remains that mirage, shimmering and beautiful and utterly without substance, and it marks a fairly major misfire for this ambitious filmmaker.
David Denby of The New Yorker:
Luhrmann whips Fitzgerald’s sordid debauch into a saturnalia — garish and violent, with tangled blasts of music, not all of it redolent of the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald’s scene at the apartment gives off a feeling of sinister incoherence; Luhrmann’s version is merely a frantic jumble. The picture is filled with an indiscriminate swirling motion, a thrashing impress of “style” (Art Deco turned to digitized glitz), thrown at us with whooshing camera sweeps and surges and rapid changes of perspective exaggerated by 3-D.
The cardinal sin of this new “Gatsby” is that it’s dull, and say what you will about Luhrmann’s previous movies, that’s not an adjective that usually comes up. Here, sadly, you can hear the wheels of the plot grinding as loudly as Gatsby’s custom Duesenberg.