Though Baz Luhrmann’s hugely anticipated adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby has the honour of opening this year’s Cannes Film Festival this time next week, it is opening state-side this Friday also, meaning that a plethora of early reviews have begun to tumble in, and boy, they’re not kind at all.
At the time of press, Gatsby sits at a paltry 41% on Rotten Tomatoes after 22 reviews, making it easily the director’s worst-reviewed film to date, taking that honour away from the director’s previous divisive effort, Australia (which scored a middling 55% with a 5.9 average).
After just 22 reviews, Gatsby is already wavering at 41% with a 5.5 average, and given that these consensus percentages generally just go downwards after the initial spate of reviews, it’s not looking good for the Cannes opener at all. Here are some of the more memorable comments from reviewers so far.
“It comes as little surprise that the Aussie auteur behind the gaudy, more-is-more spectacles “Moulin Rouge” and “Australia” has delivered a “Gatsby” less in the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel than in that of its eponymous antihero — a man who believes bejewelled excess will help him win the heart of the one thing his money can’t buy.”
“Once [Luhrmann's] agenda of swooping camera movements and gleaming roadsters and anachronistic music takes full hold, there’s nothing left to fall back on — not even Fitzgerald’s prose, much of it quoted directly throughout, is enough to keep this adaptation from feeling like a stunningly expensive advertisement for the Brooks Brothers collection of “Gatsby”-inspired duds.”
The New Yorker
“The filmmakers have literalized Fitzgerald’s conceit that Nick wrote the text—unnecessarily, since, for most of the rest of the movie, we readily accept his narration as a simple voice-over. Doubling down on their folly, Pearce and Luhrmann print famous lines from the book as Nick labors at his desk. The words pop onto the screen like escapees from a bowl of alphabet soup.”
“The Great Gatsby is a guilty pleasure, a swirling, audacious piece of cinema – in 3-D! -that could prove a crowdpleaser for young audiences. Set during the Roaring Twenties, the classic F Scott Fitzgerald novel has been a fave of high school and college kids for decades. It plays young, partly because it’s about young people in love – or their idea of love, which judging from this latest take on the story, makes people incredibly stupid.”
“[Luhrmann's] “Great Gatsby” is all about the glitter but it has no soul – and the fact that he’s directed it in 3-D only magnifies the feeling of artificiality.”
Time Out New York
“The anachronistic pop-music cues, digitally augmented tracking shots and disco-globe-glittery production design don’t re-create the headiness of early-20th-century New York so much as invent a billowy fantasy otherworld in the gauzy vein of Twilight.”
“The Great Gatsby is ultimately an epic tragedy, a parable about America, the American dream ethos and its consequences, but the movie’s overblown style chokes the life out of any substance the story may have.”
“It’s as if every bit of creativity dried up the moment the deal was signed. Yes, this is exactly what I would expect a Baz Luhrmann ‘Gatsby’ would look like, but is that enough?”
On the plus side, the production design – stifling though it seems to be to the narrative – is almost universally praised for its craft, and it’s expected that the film may well scoop a few crafts nominations along the way. Praise was also handed out to Leonardo DiCaprio, who it seems, sadly, will be left chasing that Oscar for a little while longer (at least until The Wolf of Wall Street comes out).
We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled on the Rotten Tomatoes score all week; by Friday it will likely have leveled off, probably dropping to around the 30-35% mark, though if Luhrmann is lucky, perhaps it will have a rare score upswing towards 50%.
The Great Gatsby is in US cinemas this Friday, followed by a Cannes Film Festival premiere next Wednesday, and a UK cinema release the day after.
This article was first posted on May 8, 2013