Some early reviews are in for director Baz Luhrmann’s take on “The Great Gatsby,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role and will arrive in U.S. theaters on May 10. While the Warner Bros. film is a visual feast, some film critics who have seen previews expressed disappointment at the over-the-top adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel.
In addition to DiCaprio, “The Great Gatsby” stars Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire portrays the book’s narrator, Nick Carraway. Variety's Chief Film Critic Scott Foundas noted the film is less about Carraway’s view of Jay Gatsby’s world and instead focuses on the spectacle of Gatsby, reveling in the new money excess of the mysterious playboy and thus missing the point of Fitzgerald’s novel.
To be sure, Luhrmann, the Australian filmmaker, had a difficult task trying to adapt “The Great Gatsby,” which is considered one of the seminal works of classic American fiction that's a part of the literary canon taught in many of the nation's high schools and colleges. Those most likely to watch the film will have read the book several times, either as a school assignment or for personal pleasure.
The book’s themes and Fitzgerald’s rich prose hold a personal connection for readers that may be difficult to overcome considering Luhrmann’s bombastic approach coupled with a soundtrack featuring mainstream pop from Lana Del Ray, Beyonce, Fergie, Jay-Z and Will.i.am, with a few nods to jazz.
Foundas believes the star power, the glamour of Luhrmann’s direction and the soundtrack will bring in enough people to make the film a success in its opening week but may not be the all-around success that trumps the estimated $127 million budget of the film.
Luhrmann doesn't shy away from making his version of “The Great Gatsby,” notes Foundas, much in the same way “Moulin Rouge” or “Romeo and Juliet” are unmistakably the work of the Australian director.
HitFix’s Drew McWeeny called the film “okay,” noting the sheer style on display that, at times, is incredibly successful but at other times feels disjointed from the film's main action. McWeeny said DiCaprio was miscast as Gatsby and Maguire’s portrayal of the film’s narrator falls flat because of his passive nature throughout the film. The review concludes with McWeeny calling the film a “fairly major misfire.”
The Great Gatsby "is professionally made and entirely limp, a gorgeous piece of craft hung on a nothing of a script, a prime case of how you can throw all the best intentions in the world at a project and none of it matters if it just doesn't click, chemistry-wise.”
The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde focused on Luhrmann’s directing style while noting the many flaws of “The Great Gatsby.” Ultimately, to Duralde, the film is boring, just a hollow shell that’s pretty with nothing else to offer. “This film marks the official moment in which Baz Luhrmann's signature style has become self-parody,” Duralde wrote.
Todd McCarthy, of the Hollywood Reporter, disagreed with part of McWeeny's review and noted that he believes DiCaprio is well-cast as the titular character but does agree the film will draw both ire and applause. McCarthy said the film's box office success will depend on if it can catch on with a younger audience who may be drawn in by the spectacle and the soundtrack.
Meanwhile, Indiewire’s Anne Thompson praised Luhrmann’s style while noting the movie ultimately falls flat.
"The Great Gatsby" will premiere in Europe on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival on May 15.