Gatsby, if you know it well, is one of the most complex and multi-layered pieces of fiction in modern history. Fitzgerald, being the perfectionist he was, revised every sentence in that novel a thousand times over. It’s possibly one of the most heavily refined great American novels, filled to the brim with delicate messages and understated symbolism. It’s subtle.
Baz is not. His work draws heavily from the stage, which you can see simply in the composition of his shots: dramatic lighting, over-saturated backgrounds that almost look painted in instances, flamboyancy, heavy ‘stage makeup’ looks. I’m not saying this is at all bad. In fact, it has worked very well for him, and he has made decent films using his methods. But he is not subtle. He has a blow-by-blow approach to narrative that is almost painfully blunt.
Take, for example, Australia. BLAM she’s in Australia BLAM she meets Hugh Jackman BLAM they’re in love BLAM war BLAM child BLAM stolen generation. They’re all huge concepts: change, love, war, racism. This is not true of all his films, but it is largely applicable. One can hardly expect him to incorperate something so unsupposing as the significance of the glasses worn by certain characters, or properly incorporate the colour green.
I hope with all of my heart it goes well. It could be brilliant; it certainly has a brilliant cast thus far. But it seems to me, at this early stage, this job should not be in the heavy-handed style of Luhrmann, but somebody more like Ang Lee, or even Sofia Coppola if she placed a heavier focus on narrative (however I fear her style too softly spoken, and not quite dark enough).