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May 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Throughout the week, reports spread that initial reviews of The Great Gatsby were far from great. One website,, even headlined, “‘The Great Gatsby’ Could Be The Biggest Disappointment Of The Year.” But in fact, the movie is receiving quite a number of favorable reviews. Indeed, The New York Times‘s A.O. Scott remarks in the opening of his, “Despite what you may have heard, it is an eminently enjoyable movie.” Scott advises his readers to “put aside whatever literary agenda you are tempted to bring with you” and consider director Baz Luhrmann’s intention to make the F. Scott Fitzgerald tale his own, “bending it according to his artistic sensibility and what he takes to be the mood of the times. The result is less a conventional movie adaptation than a splashy, trashy opera, a wayward, lavishly theatrical celebration of the emotional and material extravagance that Fitzgerald surveyed with fascinated ambivalence.” The New York Post‘s Lou Lumenick calls it “the first must-see film of Hollywood’s summer season.” (Never mind that the season is only a couple of weeks long so far.) He also bestows high praise on Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in the title role, writing: “DiCaprio makes a splendid, Oscar-caliber Gatsby, capturing the dark side behind his affected bonhomie.” To those who may view Luhrmann’s treatment of the classic tale as sacrilege, Chris Vognar in the Dallas Morning News fairly shouts: “Stand down, oh gatekeepers of the Great American Novel. Luhrmann hasn’t unlocked the secrets of a story that remains all but unfilmable, but his Gatsby is far more than a collection of superficial splashes and tics. The visual dazzle, surprisingly enhanced rather than cheapened by the 3D format, proves a fine match for a story of deceptive surfaces and illusory aspirations.” But those critics who hate the movie really hate it. Consider Rex Reed’s take on the movie in the New York Observer: “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,” he writes, calling the movie “overwrought, asinine, exaggerated and boring … about as romantic as a pet rock.” Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times also clobbers Luhrmann: “A filmmaker who has increasingly made a fetish of excess and a religion of artificiality, Luhrmann and his team … pile on the spectacle and the glitter until we are gasping for air.” And Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal suggests that even by Luhrmann’s extravagant standards, the film fails. “What’s intractably wrong with the film is that there’s no reality to heighten; it’s a spectacle in search of a soul. For all of its glittery fragmentation, Moulin Rouge! came around to moments of genuine passion. None of these new trappings means a thing because the people who populate them are stylish sticks, unsinged by the spark of life.” It is, he concludes, “a dreadful film.”