"New York: 1922. The tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher. The parties were bigger. The morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper. The restlessness approached hysteria."
So begins the first trailer released for Baz Lurhmann's screen adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Tobey Maquire is the narrator, whose character Nick Carraway provides the eyes and ears for the events that surround Jay Gatsby (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in the lavish exhuberance of America in the roaring '20s.
We know we are in for no ordinary film with Baz Luhrmann. His previous works include the contemporous remaking of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (also starring Leonardo DeCaprio), which offered a unique adaptation of the medieval love story set in modern America, where handguns replaced swords, helicopters circle the sky, and escstasy pills made for a very merry ball. The quirky productions of Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge! continued Luhrmann's love of colourful production designs. His last film, Australia, took Luhrmann out of his familiar territory of staged sets into the open landscape of the Australian outback. But even so, he injected a colour and splendour into the Australian outback which showed that even a flat ancient landscape can't dull Luhrmann's production genius.
Luhrmann's signature style of eccentric characters, rich colour and lavish sets was a perfect match for the big screen adaptation of The Great Gatsby. The choice of presenting the film in 3D kept with the trend of recent years to relaunch the 3D format, but also served to enhance the spectacle that Lurhmann brought to his amazing film sets (but not in New York, but in faraway Sydney, Australia).
In quintessential Luhrmann style, he felt no restraint in lending a contemporary music score to the film, with the likes of Sia and Lana Del Ray heard over the soundtrack. Certainly some 1920's jazz might well fit the period better. But it is probably designed to do away with the notion that the film is some sort of "period piece" on par with boring high school assignments.
Critics praised the performances of its leading stars, but criticized the editing, soundtrack, and lack of loyalty to the book. While the film received mixed reviews, it was winner at the box office. The film, budgeted for AU$105 million, reaped over AU$350 million worldwide in ticket sales. It won Oscars for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.