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DiCaprio defends ‘Gatsby’ from critics

Leonardo DiCaprio scans the sumptuous grounds of his Long Island chateau as dozens of revelers guzzle champagne, dance the foxtrot and dive into a monogrammed pool.

“I’m Gatsby,” he beams, introducing himself to the viewer in Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D extravaganza The Great Gatsby.

The movie opened the Cannes Film Festival in France on Wednesday night, after grossing $50.1 million on its opening weekend – and drawing mostly downbeat reviews.

“I knew that would come,” Luhrmann said of the critical drubbing as he addressed reporters in Cannes. “I just care that people are going out and seeing it. I really am so moved by that.”

Luhrmann said he felt rewarded at the U.S. premiere when a “regal woman” from Vermont, who turned out to be author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s granddaughter, congratulated him.

The Australian-born filmmaker also boasted that more copies of the novel were sold last week than in the author’s lifetime. At that point, DiCaprio – who had appeared restless on arrival and ordered espressos even before sitting down – chimed in.

“And the little film adaptation is doing quite well at the box office,” said the actor, sporting a dark goatee.

On screen, Luhrmann gives the subject his usual cartoon-like treatment. Characters initially seem cardboard cutouts (unlike in the 1974 adaptation starring Robert Redford). Settings resemble theme parks, an effect that’s exacerbated by the use of 3-D technology. Only halfway through, when DiCaprio’s character reveals a painfully romantic disposition, does the drama come to life.

Atmospheric group scenes are better handled, especially when there’s music thrown in. Gatsby’s confetti-laden bashes are filmed from all angles, with a soundtrack that fuses jazz and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with brief bursts of hip-hop.

Luhrmann told reporters in Cannes that he got the urge to adapt the novel when he heard a taped version on a train ride through Siberia 10 years ago.

“It was us, it was where we are now, it was this great mirror to reflect back on,” he said, drawing parallels between the profligate, pre-crash 1920s and the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis.

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