Ask anyone with even a passing familiarity of contemporary literature what the Great American Novel is, and you’re bound to hear the name The Great Gatsby more a few times. First published in 1924, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s best loved work captured the zeitgeist of the country in the glittering ’20s, as well as the timeless elation and tragedy of the American Dream.

So it’s not an exaggeration to say that this new cinematic adaptation of the classic tale, from (Australian) director Baz Luhrmann, has a lot to live up to. Happily, Luhrmann’s got a top-shelf cast helping him out. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the title character Jay Gatsby, the ultimate self-made American man, while Tobey Maguire play writer Nick Carraway, who narrates the proceedings. Rounding out the cast are Carey Mulligan as Gatsby’s long-simmering love interest and Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan, Joel Edgerton as her brutish husband Tom, Isla Fisher as his mistress Myrtle, and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as Daisy’s friend and Nick’s love interest Jordan. Watch the first trailer after the jump.

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I’d be lying if I said Luhrmann’s vision of it was what I pictured when I first fell in love with Fitzgerald’s book years ago, and yet I love that the filmmaker made it his own instead of slavishly adhering to the text. This Gatsby looks unmistakably modern, despite the Jazz Era setting, but that’s a positive. In Luhrmann’s hands, the story seems to shed whatever stuffy literary reputation it’s acquired over the years and regain some of its original vitality. It’s also great to see that Luhrmann’s natural tendency toward excess is actually a perfect fit for the lavish lifestyles of Gatsby and his inner circle.

Lurhmann and DiCaprio, of course, pulled off a similar trick with William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet back in 1996, moving the setting to late 20th century Florida while keeping the Bard’s language intact. I look forward to seeing Lurhmann’s take on this more contemporary classic when it theaters in very modern 3D on December 25.

Synopsis:

From the uniquely imaginative mind of writer/producer/director Baz Luhrmann comes the new big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. The filmmaker will create his own distinctive visual interpretation of the classic story, bringing the period to life in a way that has never been seen before, in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. “The Great Gatsby” follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super-rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

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