OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Director Baz Luhrmann captures opulence in latest 'Great Gatsby'

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-05-09T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Director Baz Luhrmann captures opulence in latest 'Great Gatsby'By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

For all of the decadence entertainingly displayed by Baz Luhrmann when he directed and wrote the 2001 film musical hit "Moulin Rouge!," the equivalent in opulence is served up to audiences in his new incarnation of "The Great Gatsby" for the Warner Bros. film opening nationwide this week.

I caught the critic's press screening of the film in Chicago on Tuesday, which was shown in 3D.

I'm still not convinced this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel of the same name, needs to come packaged as a 3D specs spectacle.

But as a gimmick factor, it's likely to attract a portion of younger audiences who might otherwise snooze if offered a chance to revisit the 1974 film version by Paramount Pictures directed by Jack Clayton and produced by David Merrick, from a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Robert Redford in the title role of Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan, along with Sam Waterston, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Scott Wilson, and Lois Chiles with Howard Da Silva, Roberts Blossom, and Edward Herrmann.

This new spinning of the old tale is co-written and directed by Luhrmann, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, with Tobey Maguire as devoted pal Nick and Carey Mulligan, taking her turn as long-suffering Daisy.

If it's been awhile since you spent time in the "Gatsby" circle of wealth, romance and mysterious undertones all about, it follows the life and times of millionaire Jay Gatsby and his set at the height of the Roaring Twenties. (I heard more than a few audience members before and after the film admitting it had been decades since they'd read the book, while I heard no one say the same about the last time they'd watched the original film version.)

Nick Carraway, is nicely played here by Maguire, as the aspiring bond broker in 1920s New York. living in a garden caretaker cottage in the Hamptons. Just a few waves away, across the lake, is his sweet and sullen cousin Daisy, portrayed a bit uneven by Mulligan, and her wealthy and successful, cheating husband, Tom Buchanan as played by Joel Edgerton. Around for kicks is golfer Jordan Baker, a fine turn by Elizabeth Debicki, who introduces the fold to the elusive and fabulously wealthy, party-hosting Gatsby, the millionaire living next door to Nick's tiny abode. DiCaprio is in fine form as the main man of mystery and manages to convey the much-needed unbelievable-believability in his oddly charming character.

The party scenes are eye-popping, with a mix of today's sounds and songs tossed in and re-imagined with good measure.

A good deal of audience members who also attended the screening, courtesy of winning promotional tickets, dressed in the "Gatsby" attire of the period, which was nice, but can't match any of the sequins and bangles dreamed up by Catherine Martin for this $127 million budget film.

Rated PG-13 and running 2 and a half hours long, this is movie meant to be seen on the big screen, to absorb the brilliance that abounds. And by the end, you'll be craving a glass of champagne.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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