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Just about every high schooler is practically forced at gunpoint to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel "The Great Gatsby," perhaps because no other work both celebrates and condemns the promise of the American Dream with such insight. Now "Moulin Rouge!" director Baz Luhrmann is going to sprinkle his particular brand of pizzazz all over it.
Reuniting with "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" poster boy Leonardo DiCaprio, Luhrmann is staying true to the story of self-made man Gatsby and his doomed love affair with Daisy Buchanan, while adding contemporary style and music for what's sure to be an intoxicating cocktail of the Prohibition era. Consider this your invite to Gatsby's West Egg soiree.
Release Date: Dec. 25
Movie Math: "Funny People" + literacy - the funny ÷ jazz hands = "The Great Gatsby"
CliffsNotes of the CliffsNotes: If your memories of high school are as clouded by Driver's Ed mishaps and horrible lunch food as ours are, you might need a quick refresher course on Fitzgerald's great American novel. Naïve young Yale graduate and World War I vet Nick Carraway navigates the rough-and-tumble world of the 1920s American upper crust, befriending his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby, who has the hots for Nick's cousin Daisy. Daiz and Gatsby used to romp together, but now she's married to an oafish bigot named Tom, who's having an affair with a Queens gal named Myrtle. After reigniting their love, Daisy realizes Gatsby is a changed man now that he's a wealthy (and more than a bit shady) businessman, but a tragic accident changes the course of everyone's life forever.
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Party Crashers: Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been shedding his pre-puberty looks and becoming a mature leading man of late, takes on a role that's been tackled by the likes of Robert Redford; this could be the leap he needs to finally get some Oscar sugar. Acclaimed "Shame" and "Drive" actress Carey Mulligan was chosen over a laundry list of Hollywood's brightest starlets for the coveted part of Daisy, while DiCaprio's old party pal Tobey Maguire steps in to narrate as Gatsby's newest -- and maybe only -- friend Nick. Helping Gatsby become New Money is his partner in organized crime, Meyer Wolfsheim, played by longtime Bollywood sensation Amitabh Bachchan. Isla Fisher heats things up as wild flapper girl Myrtle.
Which Up-and-Comer Has the Edge? Well-built "Warrior" star Joel Edgerton beat out contenders like Bradley Cooper and Luke Evans for the juicy role of Daisy's abusive millionaire husband Tom Buchanan, a part he took over from Ben Affleck. It probably doesn't hurt that Edgerton can speak Australian (Fosters = beer) with fellow Aussie Luhrmann, and also landed the lead in Kathryn Bigelow's Osama been-huntin' movie "Zero Dark Thirty."
Bazzing Things Up a Notch: Bringing his unique sensibilities to this classic slice of Americana is Australian director Baz Luhrmann, the mad genius who shook up Shakespeare with "Romeo + Juliet" and taught Toulouse-Lautrec the true meaning of "bawdy" in his outrageous reimagining of "Moulin Rouge!" He wanted to conquer the world with Leo in an Alexander the Great movie that fell through a decade ago, but now he's finally back together with the kid he helped make a star. Combing Luhrmann's artistic temperament with the Jazz Age is sure to produce something so bright, colorful, and dizzying that you'll feel like you've been roofied while you watch it.
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Daisy Down Under: Despite moving his family to the intended shooting location of New York, where he could take advantage of copious singing and dancing talent, Luhrmann eventually decided that home is where the heart is and relocated production of "The Great Gatsby" to the same Fox Studios in Sydney where he's made his other films. His decision to shoot in 3-D makes this likely the most dramatic/non-superheroic flick to lens in the format, and we expect The Charleston has never looked more dynamic.
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When Flapper Met Twitter: After Warner Bros premiered a reel of "Gatsby" footage in glorious 3-D at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, ComingSoon.net described a scene in which "a car speeds up to Gatsby's Hamptons estate and Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway gets out of the car and experiences a wild swinging '20s party scene that could only have been orchestrated by the director of 'Moulin Rouge!'"
Perhaps FirstShowing.net's Tweet captures the excitement more succinctly: "Saw 5 mins of 'The Great Gatsby' raw 3D footage and WOW. Baz has made a beautiful 3D drama, really enhances the experience. Whoa." It should come as no surprise that the film will lay it on thick with the romance and '20s flamboyance, but we're taking bets about whether Baz and his hyperactive glitter factory can capture the elegiac nature of such a lofty tome.
Why We're Roaring for the '20s: We have an inkling that after this Christmas bobbed hairdos are coming back in style. This cast is so exciting and sexy, and the idea of Baz giving an old warhorse of a story like this a shot of adrenaline is just what the doctor ordered. Lazy high schoolers looking to avoid their summer reading assignment may have to look elsewhere for the authentic Fitzgerald experience, though.