*DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers to the film/book. Please read with caution if you have not read the book or viewed the film. Though, if that is the case, that needs to change, now. And I will tell you why, below:*
The Great Gatsby, an iconic novel written by the gifted F. Scott Fitzgerald, was recently recreated as a film, just released a little over a month ago. It was a big deal and caused a lot of hype. And as I just got back from viewing it, I can understand why. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (known works include Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, known for his brilliant use of colors and intense, chaotic cinematography), it completely surpassed my expectations that I had walking into the theatre. This film was brilliantly done and was quite rewarding for viewers who have read the novel and a treat for those who have not yet had the pleasure.
The cast was absolutely divine. Perfectly casted. I could never imagine a better Gatsby than Mr. Leonardo himself, who has only gotten better with age. Daisy, Tom and Jordan were all exactly as I imagined them in the books. I have to be honest, I was pretty nervous about Tobey McGuire as Nick Carroway, but I am pleased after watching the film. I think he did a very decent job at narrating the heartbreaking tale of love between Gatsby and Daisy.
As for changes in the film from the text, I love how they added that Carroway was actually recounting Gatsby’s story to someone else, sometimes telling it aloud and sometimes writing it down. I think that was a lovely touch and a great way to establish Carroway as the narrator directly at the beginning, especially for audiences who haven’t read Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The majority of the film, I thought, did a great job of paying homage and incorporating key elements of the novel onto the big screen, making us book nerds quite happy. The green light, the spectacles, Gatsby’s infatuation with the nickname “old sport”; including scenes like Gatsby showing Daisy his collection of ridiculously nice and expensive shirts, which, on the surface, appears minute and unimportant, yet is truly crucial to the narrative; including key quotes verbatim throughout the film, quotes that are iconic to the novel and that readers recognize. I am absolutely in love with the film and how they adapted this novel to the screen. And don’t even get me started on the masterwork behind the soundtrack and the score. That could be a whole blog post on its own. Brilliant.
The film succeeding not only in appeasing the reader in me, but also invoked emotion as an audience member as well. I felt hatred towards Tom and his hypocritical ways and anger that he was the one who was keeping Daisy away from Gatsby. I felt bad for Wilson because I knew he was being played and felt dread when Myrtle died, because I knew with her demise, came Gatsby’s. I think the character I emphasized with the most, though, was Gatsby himself.
Here is a man who started out as nothing and became everything. He was the walking image of the American “rags to riches” idea. He built himself up from the bottom and was able to rise to the top and become at least equal to those who were rich naturally, if not surpassing them. He was able to throw elaborate parties every weekend that the entire town partook in until it became almost ritualistic, though never less expensive or elaborate. He went to war and went to school and rose from nothing into something. And while how he obtained his money is questionable, the motive behind it, is not. Everything he did, every action, every deed, every thought, every idea, he did for love. He did for Daisy. Even after he learned that she had married someone else, he still built his life around her, falling in love even though he knew that once he did, he would never be able to break from her spell. And he chased after her, fought after her, did everything for her…even died to protect her. And Gatsby was a hopeful man. He never once thought that he and Daisy would not be together, no matter what odds were against them. He knew that they would work, that it would work out. He was a true, hopeful romantic.
I can see myself in Gatsby that way greatly. I believe, like he does, that love can conquer all odds. Through seeing this film, I can appreciate my connection with this iconic character more, which only makes his death and the betrayal that causes it hurt more.
When reading the book, I labeled Tom was the bad guy; the one who ruined everything, that is what Tom Buchanan was. Yet after watching the film, I think Daisy shares a lot of that blame. I don’t blame her for not waiting and falling in love with Tom. I don’t blame her for telling Gatsby that he is asking too much in asking her to declare that she never loved Tom, which she did (even though Tom didn’t deserve it); plus, Gatsby was asking too much. I don’t blame her honesty. But then Gatsby devotes everything to her, sacrifices himself for her, and she doesn’t do anything? That is the blame I put upon her. She lets Gatsby take the fall for her murder and doesn’t even bother to send even a single flower to Gatsby’s funeral, let alone show up herself. Instead, she disappears with her cheater of a husband and young daughter and leaves everything else behind, throwing Gatsby’s undying love away. I see Daisy as less of a character from this film and definitely more complex than when I read the book.
I think the whole dynamic of the three characters — Tom, Daisy and Gatsby — is really interesting and intricate and I love what Fitzgerald has created through these characters. And I also love how Baz Luhrmann has brought this story alive on the screen once more. It is masterfully, artfully done and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy a fantastic, thought-provoking and heartbreaking story.
“You can’t repeat the past.” — Nick Carroway “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” — Gatsby