If, like me, you are a fan of 1) Baz Luhrman’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and 2) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, then, like me, you have probably been awaiting the trailer below for some time. It’s for Luhrman’s upcoming adaptation of the Fitzgerald novel, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway.
Mulligan always seemed like a brilliant choice for Daisy, and Maguire holds promise as a plausible—if perhaps overly wide-eyed—Nick. It’s DiCaprio as Gatsby that seemed at once immensely promising and potentially dreadful. And yes, one of his trademark scrunchy faces does show up briefly in the rain-drenched scene with Daisy, but we also see plenty of his purely elegant side. The man can wear a suit.
Traditionalists will balk at the song selection, of course (starting with Jay-Z and Kanye’s “No Church in the Wild” and ending with Jack White’s spellbinding take on “Love Is Blindness”): The two most highly rated comments on YouTube right now are “The songs do NOT go with the trailer…AT…ALL” and “Where is Vinnie Chase?” But when it comes to Luhrmann, the opinions of traditionalists are irrelevant. Likewise all the silly howling about Luhrmann’s decision to make the movie in 3D: Maybe the additional dimension will be visually spectacular, as it was in Avatar and Hugo, or maybe it will be a distraction, as has been the case with so many other movies. But there’s no reason Luhrmann shouldn’t try it.
That said, I do hope we get plenty of Fitzgerald’s actual prose in the film itself. What made William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet such fun was the way Shakespeare’s inimitable language rhymed with Luhrmann’s own exuberant, anachronistic style. (Similarly, David Cronenberg’s upcoming Cosmopolis adaptation appears to use Don DeLillo’s distinctive prose to great effect.)
In The Great Gatsby trailer I count two lines straight from the book: “You always look so cool,” Daisy says to Gatsby, and later her husband (the perfectly cast Joel Edgerton) asks him, “What kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house?” A couple other lines are close paraphrases, as when Meyer Wolfsheim (played by a longtime star of Hindi cinema, Amitabh Bachchan) refers to Gatsby’s “good breeding,” and when Gatsby says, “She has to tell him she never loved him.”
For the voiceover that opens the trailer, Luhrmann rather cleverly repurposes some slightly altered lines from “My Lost City,” one of Fitzgerald’s essays—though the effect is somewhat leaden. “New York, 1922,” Maguire intones, speaking slower and lower than usual. “The tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher. The parties were bigger.”
Those parties do look spectacular. Whether Luhrmann can also convey Fitzgerald’s elegiac take on America’s faux-innocence—or if he has, rather, turned The Great Gatsby into a 1920s Romeo and Juliet, as sort of appears to be the case—remains to be seen. But I can’t wait to find out.