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summer movie preview

Should We Be Excited or Nervous About The Great Gatsby?

From time to time, there are issues so divisive that they threaten to tear apart the entire Vulture staff and, if left untended, could destroy the very fabric of reality as we know it. It is incumbent on us, then, to address these issues in a manner befitting their extreme importance. Today's hot topic: Should we be excited about Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby? Kyle Buchanan and Amanda Dobbins will now work through their anxieties.

Amanda: Kyle! After months (years, really) of staring across the bay at Baz Luhrmann’s very bright green light, the moment is upon us. We finally get to watch Leonardo DiCaprio throw shirts and to hear what money sounds like as interpreted by Carey Mulligan’s American accent. It is very exciting — or at least I think it is, despite the six-month delay, the poorly Photoshopped posters, and the loud, histrionic trailers. Are these warning signs, Kyle? Should we be excited, or should we prepare ourselves for a less-than-glittering Great Gatsby?

Kyle: I understand why you might have reservations, Amanda. I mean, from the jump, the notion of “Great Gatsby in 3-D” sounds totally parodic ... and yet, that’s why I’m excited about it. I realize that this crazy, bug-eyed, hellzapoppin FX extravaganza was maybe not the Gatsby that a reader would have had in mind, but as a moviegoer, I’m sort of psyched. It might be utterly ridiculous and campy and messy — in fact, the trailers practically promise that it will be — and I’m okay with that! If it’s a low-key Gatsdaptation you want, you’ve got plenty to choose from, whether it’s the Robert Redford version or some random TV movie they made in 2000 with Mira Sorvino as Daisy and Paul Rudd as Nick. (Not lying — that happened.) So if Luhrmann wants to go way, way over the top with his version, turning West Egg into a gaudy 3-D bauble, I say we should let him and try to enjoy the ride. What are your reservations? Let’s take them one by one ...

The Ominous Delay

Amanda: Truly, I do understand the appeal of unexpected and drug-addled Luhrmann literary adaptations; Romeo + Juliet taught my preteen heart what it was to love. (Or what it was to rewind that first close-up of Leo over and over until the VHS broke, which is the same thing. My heart still leaps at the introduction to “Talk Show Host.”) But there is a fine line between “spectacle” and “mess,” and frankly, the new release date makes me think Gatsby is slipping into the second category. Has a delay ever been a good omen for a movie?

Kyle: It worked out pretty well for another DiCaprio classic: Titanic was shifted from the summer of 1997 to the end of the year, and though everyone assumed the delay augured a bomb in waiting, it ended up the highest-grossing film of all time. I don’t think Gatsby’s going to breathe that rarefied air, but there is something novel about plunging it into the superhero-choked summer movie season, isn’t there? I love the idea that Iron Man 3 will be forced to surrender 3-D screens to a Carey Mulligan movie set in the twenties.

The Casting

Amanda: I do worry about Leo fatigue. How many times have we seen him red-faced and screaming directly into a camera?

Do we really need any more Cry Face close-ups? Speaking of close-ups: Why does the trailer make it seem like Tom Hooper shot this film? Did Tom Hooper shoot this film?

Kyle: But it isn’t all screaming! For the first time in ages, Leo looks like he’s actually having fun. (Well, he looked like he was having some fun in Django Unchained, but we couldn’t really rally behind the ways that Calvin Candie got his kicks.) It’s funny that DiCaprio used to have this reputation as a womanizer and a party boy, and yet onscreen as of late, he’s had so few women to romance and so few parties to go to. Fortunately, Luhrmann comes along to let him do both. How do you feel about Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire? I love me some Carey, and I love how big she’s playing that role, though you may differ. And Leo + Tobey gives me the awws.

Amanda: I am always Team Carey, even if she’s too smart and vibrant to entirely disappear under Daisy Buchanan’s cloche hats. As for Tobey, well, here are my thoughts:

The Soundtrack

Kyle: Remember how we laughed when we saw that first trailer with “No Church in the Wild,” like, Is Baz really going down this road? But now that we’ve had time to adjust to that epic-seeming soundtrack listing — Florence! Lana! Gotye? — it seems less ridiculous and more ... well, it still seems ridiculous, but in the BEST way. It doesn’t just remind me of Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet soundtrack; it reminds me of a bygone era where these sample-platter soundtracks were de rigueur.

Amanda: Honestly, “No Church in the Wild” is the most reassuring decision that Baz Luhrmann has made so far. It’s a very good trailer song! And if that song is the sort of creative output that comes from putting Baz, Leo, and Jay in a room together, then I have hope for this movie overall.

The Marketing

Amanda: Except we must discuss the posters. Kyle, have you seen these posters?

Kyle: I have. Here, I must agree with you. Why do everyone’s faces look so weird? Did the stars really vet these? And is it just me, or is every Gatsby character poster in the city of Joel Edgerton, for some reason? That is maybe not the actor I would be selling from that movie.

Amanda: Maybe they look better with 3-D glasses? TJ Eckleburg 3-D glasses, of course. (Dear Warner Bros.: Please make these. The high-school English teachers will love you.)

The Look

Kyle: We’ve been talking around the look of the movie for a while, but we should probably tackle it head-on. Is it too much for you? Do you see all of the vertiginous lunges into the 3-D frame, or all of the confetti-strewn party scenes, and feel like this look does not compute? Initially, I felt that way, but I think the trailers have gotten me acclimated. Baz Luhrmann is going to justify that 3-D in every scene, and that’s more than most movie-makers, who simply use it to goose the box office receipts. I’m curious, at least.

Amanda: In case the Tom Hooper joke earlier did not compute: Yes, the trailers are overwhelming. And I am worried about eye-stamina — two-plus hours of that swoop-cam seems daunting. I'll give him a pass on the parties, though. Baz Luhrmann is very good at parties.

In Summation

Kyle: Let’s conclude by switching roles for a moment: I’ll name one thing about Gatsby that worries me, while you name one thing that you’re excited for. Worrisome: Baz Luhrmann almost cast Blake Lively as Daisy Buchanan.

Amanda: I am excited for the shirts! And I am excited for the Spring Breakers mash-ups that will follow. "I got shirts of every color." America is a special place. Gatsby taught us that.

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/© 2012 Bazmark Film III Pty Limited