This past long weekend was filled with sleeping, great food, and relaxing endeavors to take my mind off of work. And, was it needed! I felt like after surviving Thanksgiving meal-cooking as well as the crowds on Black Friday I could reward myself with a Saturday inside watching good movies, decorating for Christmas and just enjoying some relaxing time. In an attempt to find a movie to entertain me, I stumbled across “The Great Gatsby” (the Leonardo version) and grumbled but started watching it.
I will be honest, I did not read great reviews about this film, nor did I particularly like the cast. It has been a while since I read the novel, but I do vaguely remember the characters and what I envisioned them to look and act like. Regardless, I started watching the film and was completely engrossed from the beginning.
“The Great Gatsby” tells of the great J. Gatsby, his rise to wealth and power, as well as return to his love, Daisy Buchannan who is married to Tom Buchannan. Daisy’s cousin is Nick Carroway who lives next door to Gatsby. Essentially, Gatsby is in love with Daisy, does everything in his power to get her to leave her philandering husband and Nick is stuck in the middle. That’s the shortened version of the tale, but when you get down to it, that’s all you need to know.
Now, here is no greater tragedy than when a film does not represent a novel in full. Luhrmann did a fantastic job in keeping with the novel’s symbolism, characters, and settings. I vaguely remember watching the older version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and not liking those characters and the settings. But, this version’s sets really looked like what I envisioned when reading the novel. Moreover, the symbolism that Luhrmann used, especially with the eye doctor’s glasses billboard was perfect. It drove the point and symbolism of “God is always watching” home.
Luhrmann entwined the plot with a modern take of music, dancing, and special effects which at times were a bit much but generally were quite well done. One could definitely feel the parties at Gatsby’s similar to that of a club or Rave for that matter, in which that kind of music is appropriate. Moreover, the modernization of the music gave the general plot a level of relatability to the population today. The old versus new money debacle does not play as big of a part in today’s society as it did in the 1920s, so to combat that Luhrmann did an excellent job in weaving modern songs with the scenes.
There were only two things I didn’t particularly like with this film: the length and Daisy (Carey Mulligan). The movie was just too damn long, with artistic sections of staring at Leo’s eyes for minutes unnecessary. Or the scene with him throwing shirts at her in slow motion; ok, after the first ten shirts we get it! But, a film loses a lot of its soul in the audience when they get bored. A good 30 min could have been cut. Also, I will preface this discussion with how much I despised Daisy’s character in Fitzgerald’s book. It was purposeful, but she gave a bad name to women. She allowed her husband to cheat (yes, she allowed, for she could have left him). When Gatsby finally wanted to come clean with Tom and have her leave him, she couldn’t choose. Moreover, in the scene where she talked about her daughter and hoping she would be a “fool” in the future, was just aggravating. I can’t totally blame Mulligan for her portrayal of a character I despised, but I didn’t think she pulled her weight when in a scene versus the other three actors. In fact, Jordan Baker (played by Elizabeth Debicki) held her own much better than Mulligan.
If you are a fan of Fitzgerald’s work I would suggest watching the film. If you are a fan of Luhrmann’s work, I would suggest watching the film. If you are neither, don’t waste your time. Just youtube the party scenes for those are the best, but for someone who doesn’t understand the plot or symbolism, those are the most entertaining out of the whole film.