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Gatsby? What Gatsby?

Posted: May 14, 2013 11:47 a.m.
Updated: May 15, 2013 5:00 a.m.


If there’s anything I’ve learned in life thus far it is that the book is always better than the movie. I’m sure there are some exceptions to this but I have yet to encounter them. Regardless of how the movie version of a beloved novel or series turns out, I’ve always still had respect for directors who attempt to bring the book to life on the silver screen as long as they still manage or at least attempt to capture the feeling the book left its readers when viewers of the movie leave the theatre. I also typically enjoy every movie I see for the most part. I just really enjoy movies no matter how terrible or cheesy they are. This, however, was destroyed when I made the unfortunate decision to pay $10-plus to see Baz Luhrmann’s “adaptation” of The Great Gatsby.

I’m convinced that Luhrmann has never read Fitzgerald’s Gatsby and probably didn’t even bother to read the Sparknotes version of it during his sophomore English class. I’ve always been a fan of Luhrmann and his Moulin Rouge! is one of my favorite films but this abomination that he is trying to pass off as a version of The Great Gatsby has resulted in me losing all respect for him as a director. It would have been one thing if I had gotten even a glimpse that Luhrmann was trying to capture Fitzgerald’s story. Sure, the film followed the story and plot line pretty decently but that’s all it did. It followed the story line. Where was Nick’s sarcastic tongue? That was about the only thing I ever appreciated or admired about Nick. Yeah, he said the same lines but there was no sarcasm dripping from them. Was I the only one who felt as though Nick was presented as being superior then Gatsby in the movie? Maybe it’s just the fact that I have never cared for Nick as a character on any platform. He just came across as being a stupid kid who drank too much in the movie. Go home Nick, you’re too drunk.

And who was this Daisy? This Daisy was not a smasher. Luhrmann’s Daisy was a dim-witted and frail little girl.  “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…” For those of you who don’t understand what this meant (Luhrmann I’m talking to you), it means that Daisy was basically the worst. You see, by the end of the novel, Daisy and Tom are lumped together as being the same sort of person. Tom is clearly meant to be a character we don’t like and Luhrmann actually did a pretty decent job of portraying him in that way. A little over the top, yes, but you still get a bad vibe from him. As I said before, Daisy is a smasher, with little remorse for those she leaves in her wake. She isn’t a frail beauty as portrayed by Luhrmann. Fitzgerald described her as “the golden girl.” Sure, Mulligan is attractive, but she’s frail and not a smasher. The only line in the movie Mulligan uttered that represented the film was “Gatsby? What Gatsby?” because I found myself thinking the same exact thing. What Gatsby is this?

I don’t even know if I want to go into all the problems with Luhrmann’s Gatsby. Instead of the suave, handsome but reclusive Gatsby as we get in the novel, we are given a bumbling, idiotic, but still handsome, over tanned person. There is no sign of the Gatsby with “one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it.” Or did I miss it? Was that unsure and faltering smirk Leo gives the camera as fireworks blast off in the background supposed to be this aforementioned smile that resulted in the person on the receiving end of it to feel as though the bearer of this smile had “an irresistible prejudice in your favor.” I hope not because that sad excuse for a “smile” did not make me feel that way at all. Instead it made me want to evacuate the theatre as quickly as I could. However I did not abide my own good judgment and stayed miserably placed in a floored sort of trance of horror at what I was witnessing on the screen.

The only thing Luhrmann gathered from Fitzgerald was something about a green light and the fact that there were parties. Luhrmann took a story of a failed American dream, a man’s overwhelming love for a woman and replaced it with an acid trip that was oversexed and over liquored up. I might have enjoyed the movie had it been under different circumstances -- meaning if I had never read The Great Gatsby and formed such a deep connection with it -- but that is something I will never know, nor am I glad I will never know. The movie very well could have improved in the last hour or so, but I wouldn’t know because I became so offended by what I was seeing that I left the theatre before it was over. I wish I had listened to the inner warning inside of me saying I would regret this instead of naively making the choice to sit through the roughly hour and a half of it I did. I am now forever left picturing Nick Carraway as Seabiscuit’s jockey acting like an idiot among pretty people. I’ll try and keep Nick’s father’s words of wisdom close to heart as I get through these next couple of days, weeks, months, years, trying to recover from this disaster that has caused me to not only think ill about a director I once admired but that has also made me hate Spider-Man. “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone … just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” Not really sure what advantages I’ve had over Luhrmann except for a freshman year English course at a public high school. But whatever it is, I’m just glad I have lived to be able to warn anyone else who has read and appreciated not only The Great Gatsby but any literary work of merit not to see this movie. And if you do make the unfortunate decision to do, don’t say I didn’t warn you.



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