This has been sitting in my draft box for over a month now.
Let it be known that the only thing I knew about The Great Gatsby before watching the latest film adaptation was that the novel on which it was based was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
That is it.
I didn’t know it was about a character named Gatsby (I thought it was a place), or that it would be a love story, or that this adaptation was by Baz Luhrman or, well, anything. Shameful, I know, but I guess that’s how I ended up liking it.
I liked Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. He had that same innocent-slash-naive look that slowly turns jaded the same way it did when he was Spiderman. I think he’s got that look down, don’t you think?
I also liked Carrey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan. She was lovely.
Did I like Leo DiCaprio as Gatsby? Yes. Suave and charming one instant, awkward and almost dorky in another, and then fiery and scary the next. (I can understand now the fans’ outrage at him not winning an Oscar yet.)
I had no expectations going into the theater to watch this, and I suppose that’s one way you can approach an adaptation: untainted and unbiased. Without the prior knowledge others may have, the totally clueless one is free to judge the text based on its own merit.
But what were these merits? Glitzy and glamorous are the first words that come to mind, as well as decadent, opulent, extravagant, over-the-top, exaggerated depictions of characters and setting, but do these immediately mean the movie has a lot of merit? Maybe to noobs to Luhrman’s style. It was epic and grand, and this might impress said noobs. As a close friend told me after briefly discussing the movie with her, “Spectacle works with novelty,” and once you’ve seen more than one Luhrman film, the novelty of the spectacle fades and you’re left with the actual movie to contend with.
Carraway mentioned in the movie that Gatsby had a hope in him that was unbreakable, and while DiCaprio was able to portray the necessary emotions of his character, at some point the hope felt like desperation, that if his ultimate “dream” did not become reality, he and his carefully laid plans would fall apart and therefore he HAD to make sure what he’d been hoping for would come true. When Carraway mentions that Gatsby had “a smile like no other,” I thought DiCaprio’s smile was a bit creepy. Afterwards, though, watching him rain-soaked and nervous in Carraway’s house, I felt that yes, DiCaprio was perfect as Gatsby.
There were a lot of underlying themes there, but I won’t go into those anymore, as Luhrman focused on the love story (as he doe with his other movies). He tells love stories tragically but beautifully, and in this one he succeeds in doing so as well.