The Gaudy Gatsby
It is easy to see why Baz Luhrmann would choose to adapt The Great Gatsby, pretty much humanity’s finest novel, as not only does it continue the Luhrmann predilection for literary sacrilege but the eponymous Gatsby is a figure the director’s probably been in love with since high-school.
Trimalchian bros for life, it is easy to envision the young Luhrmann awed by Gatsby’s grandiose vision, expressed through his lavish parties, and his inherent hopefulness and self-reliance, a trait that overtly embodies the American Dream. Many critics have noted this pathological obsession with the source material that Luhrmann exhibits but have used it against the film, disparaging it for its heretical interpretation; not so much for taking liberties but for actually missing the point of Fitzgerald’s enduring masterpiece. These thinly-veiled attempts at asserting Fitzgerald’s artistry over the work of an acclaimed but often misunderstood filmmaker are fundamentally misguided; Luhrmann understands The Great Gatsby (“Unfilmable you say? I’ma make it in 3 fucking dimensions yo”) and he has consciously chosen to accentuate certain aspects of the novel so that the film can stylistically and thematically cohere within his body of work.
The cocaine-aesthetic that peaked with Moulin Rouge is back but its reigned in by the overbearing elegance of Fitzgerald’s source which enables the filmmaker to combine the panoramic visuals and irreverent profundity of Australia with the trademark Luhrmannesque baroque excess. The film remains in dialogue with the source by exaggerating the superficiality of Fitzgerald’s New York and giving it life and it works. No one should feel profoundly disappointed that Luhrmann has shed the author’s incisive social commentary in favour of a melange of garishness because he hasn’t, as almost all of the film’s idiosyncrasies are perfectly pitched. The critics who have slated this movie by impersonating Noel Gallagher during his infamous Jay-Z at Glastonbury rant really need to embrace the conscious-artifice and artistic merit of Luhrmann’s style. In an industry bereft of originality King Baz reigns supreme.