Gatsby pizzazz from a stylish Luhrmann

STAR-STRUCK LOVERS: Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby.
STAR-STRUCK LOVERS: Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Great Gatsby. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

Australian director Baz Luhrmann has a distinct style. A style which viewers were introduced to in 1992 when Luhrmann's signature red curtain was lifted on Strictly Ballroom, opening the lid on Pandora's box containing celebrities wanting to get their dancing shoes on.

This was followed by a unique interpretation of William Shakespeare's tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, the spectacular that was Moulin Rouge! and a journey to Australia.

Because he was spending several years working on short films, it's been a while since a Luhrmann feature film has graced the cinematic screens. So, after such a long departure it seemed only fitting that he should return with a bang by delivering his vision of The Great Gatsby, the classic novel by F Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby tells the story of a group of despicable characters who spend the summer of 1922 on Long Island. As seen through the eyes of Nick Carraway (Maguire) we are introduced to Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan), her husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton) and of course, Jay "The Great" Gatsby (DiCaprio). What follows can only be described as a taste tester for each deadly sin.

Adapting any classic novel, especially one as beloved as Gatsby, was always going to be difficult, but who could do a better job than Luhrmann right? His approach to film making is one audiences either love or hate which I feel is how some feel about Fitzgerald's work.

While some consider Luhrmann's style over-the-top, others see it as spectacular. Given his portfolio, that flamboyant approach and his love to tell tragedy, Luhrmann, was the perfect director to capture the glamour and decadence of the 1920s while still remaining faithful to the imagery and themes that Fitzgerald created in his work.

The cast of Gatsby is impressive. Securing Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained, Inception) pretty much guaranteed a great film. Apart from his aesthetic appeal, his acting chops are inspiring to watch and he is flawless as Gatsby. Carey Mulligan is beautiful and suitably fragile as Daisy. Australian actors Isla Fisher (Home and Away, Definitely, Maybe) and Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty, Warrior) are stand-outs in their own right in this film, especially Edgerton who plays the arrogant and rotten Tom Buchanan.

Music has always played a large part in Luhrmann's productions, Gatsby being no exception. Staying away from the traditional sound of the Roaring Twenties, the film is instead scored with modern artists including the haunting Lana Del Rey, the gritty voice of Jack White and the evocative Florence + The Machine.

The 3-D element drew audiences into the film, but I don't feel it was completely necessary as Luhrmann's talent to grasp audiences by the throat, forces them to be part of the film, no matter what the format. After all, that's part of his unique style and the main reason why he was meant to direct The Great Gatsby.

For such a small book, the duration of this film almost reached two and a half hours. While for some viewers this may be too long, I could have easily sat there for another half an hour.

The Southland Times