A few years ago, the excesses of the new movie version of The Great Gatsby might have inspired cathartic revulsion. The scene outside Avery Fisher Hall for this week's Gatsby premiere befit the mega wattage of the movie's stars, particularly Leonardo DiCaprio as he made his way through a screaming crowd. Carey Mulligan, resplendent in red Lanvin, her blond hair swept up, walked the red carpet. In the grand chaos of this opening of a state-of-the-art Baz Luhrmann movie--think Moulin Rouge set in 3D fairy tale America--Baz Luhrmann failed to introduce his stars, but did manage to say in his introduction, as the story takes place in New York, there was no other place for its world premiere, even though this American epic will open the Festival de Cannes next week.
That's quite a coup, opening Cannes; it is the creation of an award season all its own, given that the enterprise was delayed in production from the December Oscar nominated film premieres. The film's May release makes you wonder, how might Gatsby have fared in the run up to the Oscars? And how will it do now, competing for box office with summer titans like Iron Man and Spiderman?
At the turn of the millennium, F. Scott Fitzgerald's jazz age novel was number one on several "best book of the century" lists. You can understand why a director from Australia who specializes in stylized extravaganzas would seize this property. Gatsby's excesses in his West Egg mansion facing the green light where his beloved Daisy lives with her husband Tom Buchanan are rife for his sensational art design. The opening parties in 3D are a thrill, with their emptied bottles of Moet floating in the swimming pool, lit by fire works. Cars, with long hoods like snouts accessorize these characters, their driving skills a mirror of their souls. After an opulent display, the movie homes in on the Fitzgerald tropes: Gatsby's self-invention. Nick's fascination with his aloof neighbor; as go-between, Tobey Maguire is excellent, wide-eyed observer of Gatsby's heroic efforts to win Daisy, Daisy as amoral cipher, the courtly woman on the pedestal, and instrument of Gatsby's demise. By the end, Luhrmann's movie wins you over, not in the large sense of Fitzgerald's take on the American Dream, but as a story of a doomed love affair.
Carey Mulligan has grown up from the time we met her for An Education, although she retains the innocence she exuded in her movie, Drive, for Nicolas Winding Refn, who cast her because, upon their meeting, he told this reporter, he instantly felt the need to take care of her. As Daisy Buchanan in Gatsby, she is a femme enfante who MUST be cared for, which is why a critical scene where Gatsby and Buchanan vie for her, with Gatsby saying, she does not love you, is a moment of tragic irony: we know, as he does not, Daisy will stay with Tom.
At yet another party at The Standard on Sunday night, cast and director held court, a private party within a private party. Oliver Stone, Katy Perry and Cuba Gooding Jr. joined them. Moet flowed, old-fashioned champagne glasses clinked high above the city lights. Outside, at street level, Radioman predicted, Gatsby would be Leo's Oscar win.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.