Baz Luhrmann is a director whose career body of work has been nothing if not mixed. Growing up, his parents were frequent ballroom dancing competitors, giving him an early exposure to the world of music. That naturally translated into his filmmaking, having made a series of musical movies debuting to varying results. Most will probably recognize him as the creative mind behind the Oscar-winning Moulin Rouge back in 2001. In the years since though, Luhrmann has struggled to recreate that level of success.
For his two biggest projects over the last decade-plus, we have yet to see the talented director duplicate the level of quality he accomplished with Moulin Rouge. Both Australia (almost 3 hours long with a 55% Rotten Tomatoes Score) and The Great Gatsby (shorter, but with an even worse 48%) fell flat in their respective releases, leaving many to question whether Luhrmann was indeed a one-hit wonder. It makes it that much more interesting to see that redemption could be coming in the form of the upcoming Netflix original series, The Get Down.
The show will feature Luhrmann as the writer for all 13 episodes of the first season, as well as the director for the first two episodes. In terms of the story, it’ll track the lives of a group of African-American youths living in the tail-end of the disco era in America, directly before the birth of what many refer to as hip-hop’s golden age. Legendary rapper Grandmaster Flash will also serve as an associate producer and advisor to the show, alongside a talented cast consisting of Jaden Smith, Shameik Moore, and Giancarlo Esposito. In terms of the creative team and talent, it’ll be the best group we’ve seen assembled around Luhrmann since 2001.
We all know Baz Luhrmann loves a good period piece. From Romeo + Juliet all the way to The Great Gatsby, he’s shown a propensity for putting his own lavish touch on iconic time periods. Sometimes, it’s worked against him (looking at you, Romeo + Juliet), and of course one time, it worked out marvelously (Moulin Rouge). For The Get Down to operate like the latter rather than the former, it’ll need to delve deep into what it was to be black in the late 1970s Bronx. Capturing that singular experience will (or at least should) be the singular goal of the series.
Luhrmann has 13 episodes to accomplish this, and with Netflix’s decidedly hands-off approach to its talent, he could very well have found his home on the streaming service. The “Sizzle” released the other day shows us a vibrant, dramatic landscape that digs deep into the musical movement of the late ’70s, supported by an incredible cast. Netflix carries with it a long history of skillfully executed original series, and knowing this, it’s hard not to be at least a little excited for Luhrmann’s first foray into the world of streaming.
For over a decade, Baz Luhrmann has had the success of Moulin Rouge follow him around like a specter. Everything he’s done since has been compared to that one movie, and for better or worse, it’s become his defining work. Now over 15 years after the fact, The Get Down has the potential to redefine him as a filmmaker and creator. Whether it actually will remains to be seen, but the deck finally seems to be stacked in Luhrmann’s favor. Soon, we’ll see if he can take advantage.
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