The Films of Baz Luhrmann
Romeo + Juliet
Moulin Rouge! (February 12/18)
An often interminable musical, Moulin Rouge! details the forbidden romance that ensues between a beautiful courtesan (Nicole Kidman's Satine) and a poor writer (Ewan McGregor's Christian) - with the narrative following the pair as they attempt to stage an elaborate play while also keeping their relationship secret from a jealous duke (Richard Roxburgh). It's clear right from the get-go that Moulin Rouge! has been infused with a decidedly love-it-or-hate-it sensibility, as director Baz Luhrmann delivers an excessively frenetic narrative that's rife with unpleasantly over-the-top elements (eg garish visuals, disorienting editing, etc) - with the movie's pervasively arms-length atmosphere perpetuated by an assortment of uniformly unmemorable songs. (It doesn't help, either, that there's a palpable dearth of chemistry between stars Kidman and McGregor.) The storyline, credited to scripters Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, suffers from an almost total lack of momentum that ultimately proves disastrous, as there's never a point at which the overstuffed plot appears to be building towards something significant or interesting (and indeed, the climax is a total wash). There are, at least, a handful of marginally compelling interludes that prevent the movie from entering all-out disaster territory, with an early sequence detailing Satine's efforts at hiding Christian from Roxburgh's oblivious figure containing a coherent exuberance that's otherwise absent from the proceedings. The end result is a terminally overblown (and ineffective) endeavor that rarely works on the most basic of levels, and it's ultimately impossible not to wonder how the movie's become a minor classic in the years since its 2001 release.
The Great Gatsby (June 21/13)
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's tedious novel, The Great Gatsby follows Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway as he befriends an enigmatic millionaire named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and subsequently finds himself drawn into a world of lavish parties and privileged opulence. Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann does a spectacular job of alienating the viewer right from the word go, as The Great Gatsby has been infused with a pervasively artificial feel that's reflected in its various attributes - with the shot-on-the-cheap visuals, laughably fake-looking sets, and overuse of computer-generated effects perpetuating the movie's low-rent, bottom-of-the-barrel status. It does, as a result, go without saying that one's efforts at embracing the thin storyline and uniformly uninteresting characters fall flat on a continuous basis, while the incredible lack of momentum ensures that the movie's 142 minute (!) running time often feels much, much longer. And although the performances are admittedly far better than the film deserves - DiCaprio's charming work is matched by a stellar supporting cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, and Jason Clarke - The Great Gatsby's distressingly irrelevant atmosphere ensures that its few positive elements are rendered moot and canceled out from start to finish. The end result is as disastrous and pointless an adaptation as one can easily recall, and it's ultimately impossible not to wonder just what Luhrmann originally set out to accomplish with this bloated trainwreck of a movie.