Previous to directing The Great Gatsby in 2013, Baz Luhrmann made three other romantic films, part of the "Red Curtain Trilogy": Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, and Strictly Ballroom. While Gatsby is not part of the trilogy, it explores similar romantic and at times melodramatic themes, and exhibits some of Luhrmann's quintessential aesthetic styles, including anachronistically modern music; bright, vibrant colors; frenetic pacing; and grand stylistic flourishes.
Luhrmann was anxious to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel. In an interview with Life + Times, Luhrmann said of the film, "Since 9/11 there has been an added slight moral rubberiness in our world, and we all know that things came crashing down. And it is this that makes the Gatsby story especially relevant today." Luhrmann wanted to make the film in hopes of drawing parallels between the materialistic and moral decadence of modern America, and the excesses of the 1920s. Staying close to the linear plot of the book was important to Luhrmann, but he says that he thoroughly studied the book to decide which scenes were essential to his film. While seeking to be loyal to the book, Luhrmann also took many stylistic liberties, such as including a pop-heavy soundtrack, which was executive-produced by the rapper Jay-Z. Memorable pop musical moments have become something of a staple of Baz Luhrmann's work, as exemplified by his use of 90s rock music in his modernization of Romeo & Juliet, and his repurposing of pop classics in the pastiche musical Moulin Rouge.
The Great Gatsby was met with mixed reviews, but Luhrmann's grasp of visual delights in his direction received some praise. While Luhrmann was not nominated for an Academy Award for his direction (in fact, he never has been), both the production design and the costume design (both art direction and costume design was done by Luhrmann's wife, Catherine Martin) received Academy Awards. A.O. Scott wrote, in his review in The New York Times, one of the few glowing reviews, "Mr. Luhrmann’s reverence for the source material is evident. He sticks close to the details of the story and lifts dialogue and description directly from the novel’s pages. But he has also felt free to make that material his own, bending it according to his artistic sensibility and what he takes to be the mood of the times. The result is less a conventional movie adaptation than a splashy, trashy opera, a wayward, lavishly theatrical celebration of the emotional and material extravagance that Fitzgerald surveyed with fascinated ambivalence."