Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby rolls out to over 3,000 screens this weekend. Hollywood tried to translate the Jazz Age novel to the box office before, but the results were unsuccessful; most notably, the snooze fest starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in '74. Anyone who's seen Moulin Rouge! knows that falling asleep will not be an issue this time.
Leonardo DiCaprio is a terrific Jay Gatsby, while Jay-Z infused the score with modern-day tunes which include tracks from Will.i.am, Florence + the Machine, Andre 3000 and, of course, Beyoncé. Tobey Maguire plays the ever-sincere narrator Nick Carraway. Carey Mulligan is the ultimate Daisy Buchanan. The costumes by Catherine Martin (who also dressed up Rouge!) are spectacular, even when rain-soaked.
The larger than life party atmosphere is intoxicating in 3-D.
After the release date was postponed six months for reshoots and further tweaks will this over-caffeinated concoction leave you breathless or just really hung over? Check out five things you need to know before gazing upon the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg:
1. Leo's Jay Gatsby Is an Old Sport, Indeed: What's most surprising about Leo's take on self-made man Jay is not the buckets of charm he emanates but his raw, rage-filed insecurities. Gatsby's entrance is perfectly postponed until about half hour in. Once he arrives you want do everything with him, like drive a baller yellow stretch, or just take a dip in that pool of his.
2. True to The Classic, at Least Technically: Written in 1925, the book could have been a wake up call to the Roaring Twenties if it was a hit. It wasn't. Now the story of how Gatsby came from nothing to own everything all to impress a woman named Daisy is one of the best examples of the American Dream gone wrong. The script sticks to the events of the story with characters that are faithful to the text. That pumped-up fever dream feel, however, is all Baz. Still, a framing device that has Maguire's Nick narrating the story from a sanitarium is completely unnecessary in a film that runs over two hours.
3. Large Parties With Playlists From Jay-Z Are So Intimate: Like he did with pop songs in Moulin Rouge!, Baz has a knack for making anachronistic choices a good fit with older material. Having Jay-Z onboard makes the era urgent again. Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" brings the mood to just the right crawl. The closing credits track "Together" by spooky-sounding The XX signals that the party is officially over.
4. Introducing the Perfect Jordan Baker: While Leo is tops, the rest of the cast is mixed: Joel Edgerton is a convincing hulking force of old school bravado. Mulligan is faithfully Daisy, but fans of the book will know that that is its own burden. Maguire is the most problematic. To be fair, he's also saddled with a lot of voice-over which can veer into unintentionally corny line-readings. The real find is French-born Elizabeth Debicki who instills the most vapid character, Jordan Baker, with wit.
5. 3-D Isn't Just for Superheroes: Luhrmann seems like the last filmmaker who should work with an extra dimension. His previous features like Romeo + Juliet (starring a pre-Titanic Leo) are hyper-edited with most shots lasting only a few seconds. This would be problematic in 3-D where eye-strain is always a concern. The cutting style here has flair (tons of it), but those long establishing shots that take us into Gatsby's West Egg lavish mansion are wonderfully immersive. The colors pop like no 3-D film before.