“Gatsby? What Gatsby?”
Why of course Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel was the best adaptation of The Great Gatsby to date. I didn’t doubt that it would be, the previews alone showed the extravagance and excessive splurges of the nouveau riche in Long Island.
I went to the show opening day. I couldn’t wait. I taught the classic novel to juniors at Nampa High School in January and February. There was nothing that was going to keep me from watching the show: I had earned it.
The story is the same: Nick Carraway is writing about someone he remembers, a Mr. Jay Gatsby and the summer he spent in Long Island with Gatsby, his own cousin Daisy, a woman named Jordan Baker, and Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanan. Nick has always been an observer. Even at Yale, he’d been a 1920s wallflower, never really engaging in the activities of the day. So when his cousin and her acquaintances throw him into the Jazz Age with parties and alcohol, Nick is in for a summer he can’t easily forget. And then comes the love trapezoid between Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, and money-grubbing Myrtle Wilson. I don’t really want to give too much away, but it gets intense. My students only got into the book when they realized that it was absolute trash: affairs, illegal alcohol, bootlegging, crazy parties, and even death. I love this book. Maybe that means I love trash; I claim it means I get the meaning of the story…
The movie is beautiful. The colors: amazing. The music: awesome. Jay-Z – you did it! The acting: yeah. I was even impressed with Leonardo DiCaprio and honestly, I don’t get everyone’s prejudice. So he was in Titanic. He was also in The Departed, one of my FAVORITE movies ever. (Gotta love the Boston accents!) I absolutely adored this movie.
And I think Luhrmann gave this book and Fitzgerald’s characters the life they deserved.
Gatsby was indeed, the pathetic, idealistic lover he was in the book. He made himself “great,” but only in riches. He had no friends. Daisy didn’t even send a flower for the funeral.
Daisy was as spoiled and selfish as ever. But in Luhrmann’s film, I feel like the character finally had a little more depth. When Carey Mulligan delivered the “I hope she’ll be a fool,” line about her daughter, I could actually see a real woman in that character. She’s not stupid; she’s just stuck and she lives in the 20s so she won’t ever leave Tom.
Tom… I hate him. You’re supposed to hate Tom Buchanan because he’s racist and he’s a jerk and he has no real skills except that he was an athlete in college. “The polo player.” When Gatsby labeled Tom “the polo player,” it got to Tom and it seemed as if perhaps Tom would actually try to change. But then you see the Clintonesque philandering ways of Mr. Buchanan and you realize that sure, he and Daisy are going to be married forever, but Tom will continue to be the same. He’ll cheat on her all the time. So at least she had her short affair with Gatsby. At least she has that. Now perhaps she’ll actually obsess about Gatsby now that he’s dead; she didn’t seem to care that much for him while he was living, or at least not enough to be with him.
Did I like the movie? Oh yeah I did. I loved this movie. It gave life to one of my favorite books. Previous attempts to bring The Great Gatsby to the big screen have failed miserably in my mind. But Luhrmann succeeded.
If you forgot about the story because you haven’t read it since high school, I’m sorry. Here’s my opinion on that, though.
Just watch the preview. I know you’re going to want to see it after this.
Tata for now.