Finally. Two years after I first expressed my innate enthusiasm for assigning my favourite director, Baz Luhrmann, to the forthcoming screen adaptation of F. Scott. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, my eyes got to feast on the visual spectacle, or Cinema of Attractions if you will, of Lurhmann’s creative mind.
It’s difficult to broach a film based on one of the most famous texts of the twentieth century, plus when you think of Luhrmann you are automatically going to compare the “success” of this film to his past efforts, such as Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet, which are visual masterpieces and completely idiosyncratic.
Honestly, what I want to say first and foremost, post-film-viewing, is that you need to ditch all expectations. Throw away what you think you know about the book and Lurhmann’s work. Toss it all to the wind, because if you go in believing this is going to be a faithful interpretation of the text (which, let’s be honest, reads as being unfilmable), and think you are going to get a Gatsby circa Robert Redford, well that is not going to happen. And why would you want that? How boring! How beige.
Now, with all the hype surrounding the film, from the Jay-Z produced soundtrack to the elaborate costumes that were taken on by eighty people in the wardrobe department (headed by Catherine Martin…aka the director’s wife), everyone kind of expects something different and it almost seems like impossible expectations are being set. Too much hype is not usually a good thing, however I think this film lived up to its advertised extravagance. I mean, rap music in the 1920s? Yes, please. Getting drunk and bathing in glitter on the daily? Sign me up! So on that front, I was not disappointed, especially the scene where Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) are driving across the bridge into New York City and Jay-Z’s “Izzo” comes on in a car passing by, filled with champagne and a group of people partying like it is their job. To some, this romanticization of the “roaring twenties” might seem a little over the top, but I absolutely adored it. From the car, to the hotel rooms, to Gatsby’s manor, the celebrations are a thing of beauty and we all wish we were invited to them.
Now, along with the parties comes the characters, which is what I know many people seem to take issue with. Mainly, it’s Daisy Buchanan, played by Carey Mulligan. With all the hate that seems to be pouring forth, her portrayal of Daisy was on point. Superficial to a tee and personality wise, duller than the muted sweaters that Gatsby wears. Frivolous, shallow, feeble and, well, a beautiful fool, she is everything you hope your daughter is not. Well, maybe you want your daughter to be pretty, but she should at least have something relevant to offer conversations instead of talking like they are a bubble coming out of a champagne bottle. Mulligan is Daisy. You watch the movie and wonder how on Earth someone as intricate as Gatsby could possibly love such an incredibly colourful yet vapid character? Then again, how many of us have been infatuated with someone. You don’t need to understand why you “love” this person, you just do. Then, there is Gatsby himself. Leonardo DiCaprio was made to play this role. The layers he brought to this character that unfolded so delicately throughout the film and finally burst into a garish rage by the end were impressive, and it was lovely to watch. You felt his awkwardness in his attempts to woo Daisy, you could see and understand his selfish desires and selfless acts, and you don’t hate his apparent ego because it is wrapped up in hopeful cotton candy, making it easy to digest. Gatsby, old sport. I want to watch you forever and I will be reaching into the past, just as you did, dreaming of this performance.
The final emotion you are left with in this movie can be summed up in Nick Carraway’s (Maguire) thought, that “the loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” After the lavish parties and music have faded, the summer gone and the leaves falling, love broken and death imminent, your heart has no choice but to crumble to a million little pieces. Most people are very critical in wondering how and pointing out that it is impossible to feel sympathetic for these wealthy heathen’s, but they are wrong. Dying alone, rich or poor, is hapless and harrowing. To love and lose, this is heart wrenching. Living and dying, loving and mourning, all of these things we can relate to and understand, so people need to stop being so pretentious in tearing this movie apart for reasons that are not justifiable. Get off your critical pedestal, ditch your realism hat, and enjoy an experience unlike any other, because like Gatsby, we want our life to be like this. Its got to keep going on.