Rex Reed has outdone himself. He is known for hatchet job reviews, but what he did to The Great Gatsby will become the stuff of legend.
I have seen two TV “trailers” — why are previews called trailers? — of this movie, and I concluded: “Stinker.” But Reed’s review persuaded me that I had underestimated just how bad it stinks. Consider this: “You don’t realize just how much misguided damage can be done to a great novel until it is vaporized by a pretentious hack like boneheaded Australian director Baz Luhrmann.”
It gets better:
With the cinematic meat cleaver that Mr. Luhrmann wields in one bloated misfire after another (I still haven’t recovered from the nausea-inducing Moulin Rouge), style is all there is left, and in The Great Gatsby it looks alarmingly like clutter. Budgeted between 105 and 127 million dollars, depending on which Hollywood trade journal you read, with every inflated expense aimed at your eyeballs in awkward, totally unnecessary and stomach-churning 3-D, this is one of the most maddening examples of wasted money ever dumped on the screen.
He is just getting warmed up.
Is it any wonder, in all the slobber and confusion, that the acting is so bad? With the phoniest set of performances this side of an Ed Wood flick, you might as well be watching Plan 9 From Outer Space. As the new Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is hopeless, a little boy in his first After Six tuxedo.
He goes after Tobey McGuire.
He might suffice as a callow Spider-Man, but as the film’s narrator, saying campy things like “They were careless, Tom and Daisy … they smash people and then retreat back into their vast world of money and carelessness …” he just sounds like he’s reading from a college yearbook. Mr. Maguire is supposed to be the camera through which the tragedy unfolds, but he is light years away from possessing the range, craftsmanship and experience required to play a Fitzgerald hero.
And this, the grand finale:
Like Orson Welles, Mr. Luhrmann chooses interesting material to shape into movies, but then his colossal ego does ridiculous things to doom it. This catastrophe has actors who roll their eyes and raise their eyebrows in perpetual uncertainty about what kind of literature they are supposed to be interpreting—a trashed-up revision of the original with the narrator now echoing the inner voice of Fitzgerald from an asylum where he is writing a book called … The Great Gatsby? The jazz and big band swing of the ’20s has been replaced by hip-hop music supervised by Jay-Z and songs by Beyoncé and Fergie with the historical significance of a tuning fork, and there are so many close-ups that it sometimes looks like a movie about ears. I love the publicity quotes by Baz Luhrmann stating that his intention was to make an epic romantic vision that is enormous. Also: overwrought, asinine, exaggerated and boring. But in the end, about as romantic as a pet rock.
All this for $127 million. Or maybe only $105 million. Such a deal!
He was not alone. Most reviewers panned it on Rotten Tomatoes. But will it turn a profit? Probably. The Rotten Tomatoes audience loved it: an 84% rating. Its audience — young women — turned out over the weekend. It took in over $50 million.