I’ve become addicted to reading reviews of The Great Gatsby. I’ve almost unconsciously followed every piece of media, every leaked photo, every interview with Baz Luhrman and finally, every review. This film… it’s been a few years coming.
And there’s one thing I’d like to say to all of these Gatsby reviewers: Can you please, for the love of all that is holy, just SHUT UP ALREADY.
If I read one more time that “Baz didn’t even read the book,” (he listened to it on audiobook), or that “the beauty of the book is in the prose and that just doesn’t translate well into film,” (duh) I will literally tear my hair out and then the paper in half.
Well done you. You made these very clever and original insights. Of course, tell me ALL about how the other The Great Gatsby films ‘failed’ or how much you loved the book. It’s not like I haven’t read it all before.
I’ve read that Luhrmann doesn’t have the subtlety of Fitzgerald. I’ve read that it is over the top, with in-your-face references to symbolism. I’ve read that the film being bookended by Nick Carraway’s recounting of this time period to a therapist is clunky, doesn’t work, and – more specifically – isn’t in the book. I’ve read that people take issue with the text that appears on screen, with the references to the green light, with Jordan Baker not getting enough screen time. I’ve read people literally tear apart every aspect of this film.
To those people, I ask you one thing: have you forgotten that the director is Baz Luhrman?
Baz of Moulin Rouge. Baz of Romeo + Juliet. Baz of Australia, of which I think I was one of only a few people in the world who enjoyed the film.
Baz is big. He’s over the top. This isn’t some other director only known for Hollywood blockbusters or period dramas. This is Baz Luhrmann, known for hyper-emotive, colourful, oddly paced yet busting with raw emotion films. Films that depict in the large-scale what we human beings feel at the core of our being.
James Franco got it right, when he wrote:
“The critics who’ve ravaged the film for not being loyal to the book are hypocrites. These people make their living doing readings and critiques of texts in order to generate theories of varying levels of competency, or simply to make a living. Luhrmann’s film is his reading and adaptation of a text—his critique, if you will. Would anyone object to a production of Hamlet in outer space? Not as much as they object to the Gatsby adaptation, apparently. Maybe that’s because Gatsby is so much about a time and a place, while Shakespeare, in my mind, is more about universal ideas, ideals, and feelings. Luhrmann needed to breathe life into the ephemera and aura of the 20s and that’s just what he succeeded at.”
I saw the film, and guess what – I loved it. Not because it was an exact replica of a book I’d read and loved, but because it was fun.
It was like going to a glamorous party, which I’m sure is exactly what Luhrmann intended. The anticipation, the arrival, the first sip of champagne, the nods to old friends and the eavesdropping of strangers, the second glass, the realisation you’ve perhaps drunk too much. The retreat. The hangover. The sobering realisation.
The novel has such popularity that no movie could ever do it justice in the eyes of its fans. But Luhrmann didn’t forget them. There were nods after nods to the text – the original cover art was used as a billboard, the original text made up dialogue, even Nick Carraway recounting his experiences to the therapist had something of the book in him. After all, if someone needs to recount, why not give him someone to recount to? Nick even takes the place of Fitzgerald, penning the novel The Great Gatsby.
Yes, the film can be erratic, has euphoric highs and heart wrenching lows, is at times painfully obvious and at others surprisingly deep.
But you know who else was? Jay Gatsby. And what fun he was.