Baz Luhrmann's trademark ability to polarise critics has continued with The Great Gatsby.
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The Great Gatsby - Trailer 2
Watch the latest trailer for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby.
The first US reviews of the Australian director's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the enigmatic millionaire who yearns for the love of his life in 1920s New York, range from the admiring to the downright dismissive, with just as much divergence on whether the movie will be a hit.
Ahead of its US opening this weekend, The Hollywood Reporter called the Sydney-shot movie "a hugely elaborate, well-cast adaptation" and noted - sagely - that it would provoke "every possible reaction".
Reviewer Todd McCarthy wrote: "As is inevitable with the Australian showman who's never met a scene he didn't think could be improved by more music, costumes, extras and camera tricks, this enormous production begins by being over-the-top and moves on from there. But, given the immoderate lifestyle of the title character, this approach is not exactly inappropriate, even if it is at sharp odds with the refined nature of the author's prose."
McCarthy wrote that Luhrmann had to be given credit for delivering a real interpretation of the famous 1925 novel, unlike previous movie adaptations, no matter how frenzied, elaborate and sometimes distracting his technique might be.
In the other major Hollywood trade paper, Variety's Scott Foundas said the movie had a holiday feel - "like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as staged by Liberace" - and considered it a chance for Luhrmann to garner his best box office results to date.
"It comes as little surprise that the Aussie auteur behind the gaudy, more-is-more spectacles Moulin Rouge and Australia has delivered a Gatsby less in the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel than in that of its eponymous anti-hero - a man who believes bejeweled excess will help him win the heart of the one thing his money can't buy."
Calling the movie's style a "visual circus", he noted that to accuse Luhrmann of overkill "is a bit like faulting a leopard for his spots".
"Love it or hate it, take it or leave it, this is unmistakably his Gatsby through and through, and as with all such carte-blanche extravaganzas (increasingly rare in this cautious Hollywood age), it exudes an undeniable fascination - at least for a while.
"... Fitzgerald famously wrote "action is character" but for Luhrmann action is production design, hairstyling, Prada gowns and sweeping, swirling, CGI-enhanced camera movements that offer more bird's-eye views of Long Island (actually the Fox Studios in Sydney) than The Hobbit did of Middle-earth."
On the Indiewire web site, Anne Thompson called the movie "a guilty pleasure, a swirling, audacious piece of cinema - in 3-D! - that could prove a crowdpleaser for young audiences."
This is unmistakably his Gatsby through and through.
She praised the design by Catherine Martin - suggesting she should earn an Oscar nomination for the gorgeous costumes - but said the movie ultimately became repetitive over two hours and 23 minutes.
Far from dazzled was The New Yorker's David Denby, who dismissed Luhrmann as "less a filmmaker than a music video director with endless resources and a stunning absence of taste" who, he believed, had aimed a movie with a few good scenes and a lot of "discordant messiness" at a young audience.
"Luhrmann may have miscalculated," he wrote. "The millions of kids who have read the book may not be ready for a flimsy phantasmagoria. They may even think, like many of their elders, that The Great Gatsby should be left in peace."
Even so, Denby praised the performances and a fight scene that he considered the dramatic highlight of the filmmaker's career.
"When Luhrmann calms down ... and concentrates on the characters, he demonstrates an ability with actors that he hasn't shown in the past. Tobey Maguire, with his grainy but distinct voice, his asexual reserve, makes a fine, lonely Nick Carraway ...
"DiCaprio has an appraising stare and he recreates Fitzgerald's description of Gatsby's charm: that he can look at someone for an instant and understand how, ideally, he or she wants to be seen."
The movie, which is yet to be seen by Australian critics, opens the Cannes Film Festival on May 15. It is released in here on May 30.