In Theaters: May 10
Shush. Listen. That's F. Scott Fitzgerald turning in his grave. Fitzgerald's 1925 The Great Gatsby, a Jazz Age tale of sex, lies and conspicuous consumption, is a great American novel, maybe the greatest. But the tale of dirt-poor Jay Gatsby reinventing himself to win the woman he loves has defied five attempts at filming. Try staying awake during the 1974 version with Robert Redford. Enter Aussie director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) to make the sixth time the charm. He brought visionary zest to Shakespeare in 1996's Romeo + Juliet. So why not cast his screen Romeo, Leonardo DiCaprio, as Gatsby? Add DiCaprio's pal Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Gatsby's friend and the narrator of the story, and the stellar Carey Mulligan as Daisy, Gatsby's fantasy made flesh in lush gowns and jewels. Luhrmann digitally re-created New York in Australia (for tax purposes), shot in 3D (God knows why) and brought in Jay-Z to amp up the soundtrack (nothing like hip-hop to add relevance to a retro classic). Shush. Listen. That's blind ambition being gutted by flawed execution. Aside from the staggering beauty of Catherine Martin's costumes, nothing works. The actors are buried in the art direction, along with feeling. The film looks as stiff and lifeless as a posh store window. Luhrmann and co-writer Craig Pearce take risks by conceiving Nick as an alcoholic writing the novel in an asylum. That made me crazy. But not as much as hearing Maguire narrate a scene and then speak it as dialogue as Luhrmann turns the words into display type that pops off the screen in 3D. There may be worse movies this summer than The Great Gatsby, but there won't be a more crushing disappointment.