The Great Gatsby

As a tale of loss and love, of obsession and champagne and fraud and violence and frenetic dancing, The Great Gatsby had all the potential for a stunning 21st century, One Percenter update. Luhrmann ALMOST went there with the soundtrack, which is current, blingy, basey and hip-hop. Unfortunately for the rest of the stuff, if you’ve seen Moulin Rouge you’ve seen it all before.


Swop pills for absynthe, the Gatsby mansion for the riotous Red Windmill, the struggling writer Tobey for the struggling writer Ewan, and even the feckless Satine for the callow, cruel, pale skinned Daisy – it was like he decided to go back to what he was good at, having side-tracked into melodrama with widely panned Australia.

Leonardo is fantastic, I’ll admit, but he styles Gatsby as an embittered, unsavoury, Talented-Mr.Ripley-kind-of- Jack Dawson – if Jack hadn’t sunk on the Titanic, and Rose left him for the money and social status. The party scene was sheer, riotous brilliance, but otherwise the characters are vile and unlikeable and impossible to care about and many of the exteriors look like cartoons. Most of the time it’s like a very cool 90 minute music video with all the songs turned down.

Don’t get me wrong, I really didn’t hate it – I felt I was experiencing a story uniquely told through cinema. I enjoyed playing Spot-The-Aussie (Gatsby filmed in Sydney.) But I felt dirty afterwards. Scott F. Fitzgerald only sold 24000 copies of The Great Gatsby in his lifetime. Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic version has already topped the $100 million dollar mark in the first couple of weeks of global sales. There’s something tragic about that.

The Hobbit Effect in Australia

Due for release in November of this Year, Baz Luhrmann’s latest opus Australia is set in north of that country just before World War II. It revolves around an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) who inherits a cattle station the size of a small European nation. When rival cattle barons plot to annex her land, she joins forces with a stock-man (Hugh Jackman channelling Crocodile Dundee?) to drive her cattle to market across the country’s most unforgiving territory, arriving in Darwin just as the Japanese airforce begins its bombing attack…..

Noting that following the release of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, tourism numbers to New Zealand were roughly double those visiting Australia during the same period, the Sydney Morning Herald quite rightly trumpets the exciting news that:

Tourism chiefs are to unveil a deal between the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, its director, Baz Luhrmann and the federal tourism body, Tourism Australia, at a tourism conference in Perth today.

The goal, apparently, is to use the movie to switch the tourism focus back to the harsh but beauteous wilderness that makes up the vast interior of the country. (My quip about Hugh Jackman as Crocodile Dundee was actually semi-serious; the 1985 Paul Hogan movie almost singlehandedly reimagined Australia, Australians and the Australian bush in the global conscience, and it significantly boosted tourism to the vast Outback.) The SMH article notes some of the plans to develop movie tourism around this movie. 

One idea is recruiting travel agents to pitch to travellers the idea of following in the footsteps of the film’s stars, experience the scenery themselves and, perhaps a little of the romance as well.

Well, of course.

So kudos to the Aussies for actually planning this before time, rather than functioning with the “if you build, it they will come” mentality of a lot of jurisdictions.

PS And check out this cute You Tube link to see the genuine excitement of residents of a small rural town when Hollywood rocks up…..