Throughout The Get Down, Luhrmann uses music to evoke nostalgia and in his words, “to advance the story.” In an interview he gave at the Tribeca Film Festival, he explains that music acts as text in his work. With the money spent on licensing—the series cost a whopping $120 million—he clearly throws his weight behind his artistic choices. The soundtrack, which blends old school and new school, seamlessly integrates the likes of pop greats Donna Summer and Janelle Monáe.
Luhrmann, who is known for grand cinematic spectacle (think Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), has ambitiously set out to capture the timbre and spirit of the time that gave birth to the genre of hip-hop. This is a huge ask, and as a consequence, the series initially feels incredibly unfocused. The two-hour-long pilot episode is top heavy with unnecessary exposition. By the third episode, however, Luhrmann, who fired two showrunners before taking up the mantle himself, manages to pull the plot together. Still, there remain questionable aesthetic choices—excessive rhyming dialogue à la Spike Lee’s Chiraq, for one—which tend to distract from the wonderful performances of Shameik Moore, Justice Smith, and Jaden Smith. Moore, who first came to prominence as the lead in Dope, commands the screen as a vintage Puma-wearing, kung fu-obsessed graffiti master known as Shaolin Fantastic.
Australian Film Director, Screenwriter and Producer
After theatrical successes, including the original stage version of Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann moved into film and has directed five so far: Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Australia (2008), The Great Gatsby (2013)
Luhrmann is currently collaborating with award-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis on a Netflix series The Get Down about the birth of hip-hop in the 1970s. The series is scheduled to air in 2016 and will star Jimmy Smits, Herizen Guardiola, Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Mamoudou Athie.
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