They called “The Great Gatsby” the Great American Novel.
I never really read it until recently, going through it together with some kind of literary analysis (but that will be for another post). And while there have been many adaptations into plays, musicals, and films, I was fortunate enough to catch Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of Gatsby last weekend.
To be honest, I was skeptical at first. The Twitter verse had many things to say about the film, not all too pleasant. I guess what attracted us (the tiger and I) to actually sit down and watch the film were the still shots and gifs that kept showing up on Tumblr.
ONWARDS TO THE MOVIE!
The first thing I noticed, albeit totally superficial, was the almost 1:1 page-to-minute ratio for the movie. On average, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald is 180 pages long, compared to the 142 minutes in Luhrmann’s adaptation. That was interesting.
The movie, like the novel, was set in 1920s New York City, when Wall Street was booming and everyone was looking for that golden opportunity. The narrator here is Nick Carraway, portrayed by Tobey Maguire, and he recounts his experiences at his home in the fictional West Egg on Long Island, neighbor to the enigmatic Jay Gatsby.
While I will not spoil any of you who have yet to watch the movie, I would say look out for the impeccable artistic direction and the soundtrack. You cannot really expect any less from Luhrmann, who also directed Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, all of which known for their extravagant artistry.
Many will speak of how accurate the film is to the novel and if the actors were a good fit for the character. And as these factors are important, so as not to pretty much do injustice to this work of literature, I’m going to look at this as a film on its own. The literary analysis and comparison will come in a later post.
The extravagance was definitely there, the coordination of servants in the Buchanan household, the coordinated chaos in Gatsby’s parties, even the dinge in the Valley of Ashes and Gatsby’s secret businesses had that tinge of sophistication. Ambience music fit these scenes perfectly well, a great balance of hip hop and the classics to represent how the issues in this film transcended superficial identity. We definitely did enjoy the remixes and the use of Rhapsody in Blue.
On the subject of casting, I would say Tobey Maguire did a fantastic job as Nick Carraway. The descent of his character from hope, naivety, greed, confusion, despair, to the ultimate realization of his cousin, were visible as you carried on through the movie. Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Daisy, however, somehow seemed to garner a bit more empathy that I thought Daisy should.
From a line in the movie (and the book), “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Despite the fact of Daisy being sufficiently portrayed as someone superficial and naïve, I thought she played on the ‘neglected-wife’ syndrome a bit too much. Tom (Joel Edgerton) was pretty much an asshat, so I’ll just leave it as that.
And I’ve said this before, but I think it’s worth mentioning again – Leo was just DRIPPING Gatsby.
So before this goes into another report that ended up too long for its own good, I’ll just conclude with what my favourite part of the entire film was – symbolism. The green light representing the everlasting hope (only disappears once in the mist when Gatsby is confused in Daisy’s presence), the billboard in the Valley of Ashes like the “eyes of God”, like a guardian watching and never wavering as these actions unfurl.
And there you have it! As a film, I’d say it’s a good watch – apart from the artistic direction, you can see the personification of everything possibly wrong with The American Dream (even in this time) as you read deeper into the cinematography.