American moxie and folly are submitted to a mad spin cycle in this week’s The Great Gatsby, writer-director Baz Luhrmann’s characteristically lush and glitzy adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel — still an assigned reading classic for high school and college students across the United States, almost a century on. The Australian-born Luhrmann puts an energetic spin on the material.
His previous collaboration with Gatsby star Leonardo DiCaprio, 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, was a swoon-worthy hit with critics and young audiences alike, to the tune of a $147 million worldwide gross. But it’s the director’s 1992 big screen debut which remains arguably his most enduring treat, if one adjusts to scale for surprise and unexpected vitality. A hyper-stylized, wildly offbeat and culturally specific yet universally appealing comedy, Strictly Ballroom is a movie bristling with verve and youthful energy, and it clearly serves as a marker for the sort of sweeping, outsized ambitions that Luhrmann himself has subsequently pursued over the course of his career. I write more words about it over at Yahoo Movies, so click here to give it a read.