The polarizing The Great Gatsby trailer: 6 talking points
Director Baz Luhrmann applies his trippy razzle-dazzle to F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic story of the treacherous American dream. Brilliant or blasphemous?
Baz Luhrmann, the director behind the almost numbingly spectacular Moulin Rouge and the radical '90s update of Romeo + Juliet, tends to rile up both his devotees and detractors. So it's no surprise that the just-released trailer for his adaptation of The Great Gatsby got the internet yammering. (Watch the video below.) Luhrmann's 3D take on the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, about a tangled web of social climbers in the Jazz Age, struts into theaters this Christmas, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as narrator Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan. Here, six things that have critics buzzing:
1. The divisive Luhrmann touchFrom the sumptuous visual flair to the jarring hip-hop soundtrack, Luhrmann's trademarks are on full display, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post. Some critics will say that "Luhrmann has engaged in F. Scott Fitzgerald blasphemy," but I think he's produced something "sublime." The party scenes might even top the razzle-dazzle fantasia of Moulin Rouge, says Dave Rosenthal at The Baltimore Sun. That's a welcome contrast to the "lifelessness" that defined 1974's "flat and passionless" Robert Redford-Mia Farrow Gatsby film.
2. Speaking of the anachronistic music...Traditionalists are balking at the use of Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" and Jack White's cover of U2's "Love Is Blindness" in the trailer, says David Haglund at Slate. Well, "under any other circumstances it would seem odd to see women in flapper dresses shimmying to a hip-hop jam," says Angela Watercutter at Wired. But Luhrmann has a history of "remixing contemporary music into historical material and making it work." Radiohead in a Romeo + Juliet reboot? Nirvana in Moulin Rouge? These juxtapositions "shouldn't have flown either, but somehow [they] clicked."
3. The worrisome 3D aspectFitzgerald's classic is unlikely source material for a movie in 3D — a gimmick typically reserved for flying superheroes and precocious Pixar characters. But the "thrilling and vibrant" trailer suggests "plenty of opportunities to have bits of the Great American Novel fly off the screen," says Margaret Hartmann at New York: Confetti-drenched parties, overflowing bubbly, and more. Well, the 3D may be "visually spectacular" as in Avatar and Hugo, or it may be pure distraction, says Haglund. Either way, credit Luhrmann for taking a risk.
4. The A-list castingMulligan continues to appear a "brilliant choice" to play the whimsy-laden, disillusioned Daisy, while Maguire, though "overly wide-eyed," shows potential as Nick, says Haglund. DiCaprio's casting, meanwhile, is both "immensely promising and potentially dreadful." He looks impossibly elegant in his period duds, but pulls his maddening trademark: The "scrunchy face." Why must DiCaprio deploy that "pinched, slightly perplexed expression" in so many movies, wonders Amanda Dobbins at New York. Please find an alternate expression... or two.
5. The wonky accentsWhile the trailer features only snippets of dialogue, they hint at shaky dialect work. The actors seem to suffer from Ryan Gosling syndrome, says Dobbins, speaking in a strange hybrid of old-school aristocrat and modern Boston thug. And are we buying British Carey Mulligan's Southern lilt? The most disorienting voice work comes from DiCaprio, says Lucas Kavner at The Huffington Post, who's seemingly "decided to speak in a very strange half-British accent in all of [his] movies."
6. The deviations from the novelPurists worry that "Luhrmann's aesthetic overwhelms the core of the story," says Aly Semigran at Hollywood, and, judging from this trailer, they may have a point. It's not just the visuals Luhrmann's taking liberty with, says Dobbins. The opening narration isn't even from Gatsby, but from the Fitzgerald essay "My Lost City." Then again, the "1974 adaptation stayed incredibly close to the book, and suffered for it," so perhaps we should cheer Luhrmann's departures from the source material.