Is The Great Gatsby overblown or did it blow them away?
Such is the mixed critical reception Baz Luhrmann's latest cinematic extravaganza, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, has received so far, in the director's bid to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's soaring 1925 novel about jazz-age love, flapper culture and capitalism along the Gold Coast.
Here's a sampling of some of the more notable early reviews:
• "The cast is first-rate, the ambiance and story provide a measure of intoxication and, most importantly, the core thematic concerns pertaining to the American dream, self-reinvention and love lost, regained and lost again are tenaciously addressed," raves The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. "At the very least, Luhrmann must be given credit for delivering a real interpretation of the famous 1925 novel, something not seriously attempted by the previous two big screen adaptations (there was a now-lost 1926 silent version)."
• "That slim but thematically tricky little volume remains a captivating riddle, which may be why no filmmaker has created the 'definitive' version. Luhrmann, the fourth to try, hasn't, either—there's a lot to dislike here as well—but his is easily the most entertaining Gatsby yet," opines Newsday's Rafer Guzman.
• "Luhrmann does find the beating heart at the center of this overstuffed enterprise," writes Marshall Fine at Hollywood & Fine. "It rests firmly in the person of Leonardo DiCaprio's Jay Gatsby, who single-handedly breathes life into a film that is nearly sunk by the glum Carey Mulligan and the lightweight Tobey Maguire."
• "The cardinal sin of this new Gatsby is that it's dull, and say what you will about Luhrmann's previous movies, that's not an adjective that usually comes up," complains The Wrap's Alonso Duralde. "This film marks the official moment in which Baz Luhrmann's signature style has become self-parody. So we beat on, boats against the current, jumping the shark."
• "Luhrmann has become less interested in performances than in artful poses," panned Variety's Scott Foundas. "More often, Gatsby feels like a well-rehearsed classic in which the actors say their lines ably, but with no discernible feeling behind them."
• "The Great Gatsby is a guilty pleasure, a swirling, audacious piece of cinema—in 3-D!—that could prove a crowd-pleaser for young audiences," counters Ann Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood.
• "Gatsby is one glitzy misfire," sums up Eric Kohn of Indiewire.
Whether or not that's true, we'll leave it for the audience to decide when The Great Gatsby hits theaters this Friday. The movie is also set to kick off the Cannes Film Festival on May 15.
(Originally published on May 7, 2013 at 6:52 a.m. PT)