After Australia, it’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s turn

December 20, 2008

Having, by most accounts, thoroughly done over Australia, Baz Luhrman turns his sights on The Great Gatsby.  The man appears miffed at the poor reviews his latest outing has been getting.

Speaking of which, you know something’s badly wrong with an Australian film if even David Stratton struggles to find a kind word.  He gave it three-and-a-half stars out of five, but if you take off the customary handicap, it’s probably closer to two.

An unkind review follows.

I’ve not seen Australia yet.  I will do, but I’m not really looking forward to it.  I haven’t liked Luhrman’s work in the past – I thought his camped up La Boheme was execrable, Strictly Ballroom left me cold, and I failed to sit through more than five minutes of Romeo + Juliet.

From the trailers and excerpts I’ve seen, our Nic seems to have really gone off the boil. What’s happened to the cute kid with freckles in BMX Bandits, the deadly vamp plying sex for power in To Die For (possibly her best ever role), and the business-like nuclear scientist saving the world (well, Manhattan, anyway) in The Peacemaker?

I thought she was passable in The Interpreter, but in The Invasion – an appalling remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one of cinema’s immortals – she was beyond dire.



  1. I expect nothing from Baz L. But if the man wants to make a great Australian film instead of this sub-moronic pastiche why not (cf Scott Fitzgerald and Shakespeare) Capricornia, The Timeless Land, Fortunes of Richard Mahony, etc?

  2. Or Darcy Niland’s The Shiralee or The Apprentices, if he’s into nostalgia.

  3. The lives of Charmian Clift and George Johnston would be worth filming, or Patrick White, Sumner Locke Eliott, Dorothy Hewett, Kylie Tennant, Miles Franklin…

  4. Ruth Park. What a woman.

  5. I read yesterday that Baz had bought the rights to The Great Gatsby and that he intends to narratively hybridise it with the GFC. My first thought was ‘oh no.’ You can guess what’s coming: an anti greed/Republican/Bush/capitalism morality tale that makes no recognisable references to the Barney Franks’ and Chris Dodds’ or to the liberal social democratism at the heart of the sub-prime experiment.

    I haven’t seen Australia either but the involvement of the Rudd government, the association with an ad campaign, the ridiculous use made of the ‘stolen generation(s)’ myth and several historical howlers make it less than ‘must-see’ cinema. And I’ve asked myself the same question about Kidman. She seems to have become stiff and frozen – her range matching, in that respect, the consequences of her alleged recourse to botox.

  6. No, it’s not ‘must-see’, it’s more ‘I really think I oughta’. Odd about Kidman: she really does, or did, have talent. Somehow it’s just been bleached out of her. To Die For was a real tour de force, though some critics sniffed she was over-rated. And in The Peacemaker – which I thought was a very intelligent political thriller – she was very effective, but looked quite different: mousy, a bit ordinary, not at all glam.

    The View From Elsewhere (great Central Australian blog) has an excellent review of Baz’s Australia here.

    As for the stolen generations, that’s a whole other issue and I’d blog about it if I dared.

  7. Baz might do a passable rendition of Great Gatsby I reckon. I think he generally does better with other people’s scripts and set narratives. You can see how in Moulin Rouge and Australia he grasped at traditional narratives and recognisable romantic/fantasy characters, but was never able to quite put it together – ie, he’s great at the small details but shaky on overall formal considerations. IMO Romeo and Juliet was an excellent film. Hey, maybe it just spoke to the eternal teenager in me.

    Anyway, I can see how Gatsby would hit Baz’s strengths – small details… costumes… a number of fey, androgynous characters… operatic/musical set pieces/themes… etc. I’d much prefer it if it was set in the 1920s/30s of the original novel, not only because I like faithful period dramas, but also because I think Baz has a natural ‘jazz-era’ sensibility.

    We’ll see.

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