When I heard that Baz Luhrmann was taking on this classic novel into his production, I was thrilled with great expectations. And to put a long story short, after seeing the movie at its first day screening in Indonesia, May 17th 2013, I walked out from the cinema with a GREAT satisfaction. Baz Luhrmann did a remarkable job! I do LOVE the movie!
Now, I understand that some critics might have opposite opinions about it, from the movie’s delayed release date on Christmas last year, the suspicions that Luhrmann’s adaptation MUST be “style over substance” especially with the use of 3D and hiphop music for this 1920s drama, to the recent event regarding the divided acceptance from the audience after seeing it as the opening film in The 66th Cannes Film Festival 2013. So, with all those stuffs [and even more] going on surrounding this movie, I personally can only say this: everybody is free to speak what they FEEL! After all, it’s ART! Just like books, or music, or paintings. You like it, you buy it. And if you don’t, that’s fine, everyone has preference. As simple as that, I think.
Anyhow, let’s now talk about THE GREAT GATSBY: the book, the movies, and the values. First of all, if you should know me, I’m a Jane Austen kind of guy. So this F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story is not really my cup of tea. It’s not heartwarming enough for my usual reading material. However, after seeing the movie, I had an urge to read it in order to get the original pattern of the story. And also, I looked back to my video collection, trying to find the 1974 adaptation of the novel, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I found it, and then saw it again right away. So here’s what I FEEL.
The book contains nine chapters. Set in New York, in the period so called “The Roaring Twenties” after the World War One, the book is narrated by a guy named Nick Carraway. He’s just moved to the area called West Egg in Long Island near New York city where he works selling bonds. He rents a small house just next door to the big house that belongs to a mysterious man named Jay Gatsby, who throws great parties all summer. Being new in New York way of living, throughout the book Nick has to experience things beyond his ordinary living theme. This will eventually be the implementation to the advice his father once gave him, written in the first page of the novel, that sets the character of Nick as a reliable person in keeping secrets, and not easily falls into judgment in observing people.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Among the things he experienced, is to see that for a guy named Gatsby, love indeed never dies. Gatsby was in love with his cousin Daisy five years earlier before the war. After a considerably long time of waiting, Daisy then married Tom. But Tom is a bad husband who cheats on her many times. Although she knows her husband’s bad habit, she still lives with him anyway in a big house at East Egg with their one little daughter. On the other hand, Gatsby has made his fortune and becomes a rich man. He deliberately buys a house at West Egg so that he can live across the bay from where Daisy lives, and he throws open parties hoping Daisy would come someday, but she never appears.
That’s just how much love Gatsby has in store for Daisy, from a penniless boy to becoming a rich man, just to be her equal in order to marry her someday. Nick then happens to be the bridge that reunites the two, where he witnesses the grand love they have for each other. But Gatsby wants too much love from Daisy that she can’t possibly give him. She can’t repeat the past, now that she’s married to Tom and can’t easily leave him. But Gatsby never gives up on his dream to marry Daisy APPROPRIATELY, until one tragic event happens to him and puts a stop at everything.
From Nick’s point of view, the world in New York where he lives is full of hypocrite people, from the party goers, to the public figures, and even to his cousin Daisy who can’t pay respect to Gatsby who loves her that much. Nick even has to loose Jordan, the woman he’s attracted to, only because he’s fed up with everything else that’s going on around him. On the other side, Gatsby is the only person he sees as kind and true. He may be doing dirty business and lying about who he really is, but Nick highly values the purity of Gatsby’s love to Daisy and how Gatsby treats Nick as a friend. At the end, he’s fed up with New York lifestyle and moves elsewhere.
Actually, I have seen three adaptations of the book. The 1974 movie starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, the 2000 telemovie starring Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino and Paul Rudd as Nick, and then the latest piece in 2013 made by my favorite Director Baz Luhrmann, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. They probably shone in their own time, but of course for me the latest one is by far the brightest. I even can’t see the possibility in another decade or two, that one will do the remake of this book again – especially into the big screen – after the lavish adaptation Baz Luhrmann just did. It’s so over the top in both visual and character projection, that Hollywood will not dare to remake it back again into “just another drama movie”.
Now I’m not only talking about the use of 3D and the music from Jay-Z, which effectively marvel the whole package of the movie. No, not only that! It’s also about the cleverness of the screenplay to stay true to the book, yet it makes the most contrast coloring in every scene and character. The dramatization is fantastic! You don’t have to guess what they feel, it’s shown. When Baz wants a scene to be vulgar and disgusting yet contemplative to Nick, he made it clear that it is so, like the scene where there’s a small party in an apartment in New York. You can perfectly sense that Nick is not happy with the vulgarity, and to contrast his feeling, there’s a scene written in the book about his contemplation of the New York life that Baz delivers perfectly. This scene was not projected in 1974 adaptation. At the end of the movie you will “completely” understand the idea of how revolting New York life is for Nick. And when Baz wants an extravaganza party in a Long Island majestic house of Gatsby’s, you don’t question his capability of him doing so. It’s simply magnificent! And last but not least, the romance. It’s drop dead gorgeous! The glamor of the twenties, the big houses, the flying curtains, the white roses, everything is worked up to the most! It’s a perfect date-movie although it ends tragically.
Each character is given their scenes to show their parts. It’s a well-acted movie, especially for Leonardo DiCaprio who I think is born to play Gatsby. I don’t talk about Oscar potential here for any actor in this movie, but I assure you that nobody’s acting badly. And compared to other adaptations, I can understand Gatsby better in this movie. Leo and the screenplay and the cinematography, have made a clear vision to Gatsby’s foolishness, kindness, and obsession for love.
The only thing omitted from the book in this movie is the coming of Gatsby’s father towards the end of the book. From my personal point of view, it has little to do with the whole story. If any, it’s only adding to the greater Gatsby as we already know him to be, for he acknowledges his duty to his parents by making up to them while he’s all rich and successful. Baz’s decision to omit this part is fair enough, considering the movie runs already long enough for about 140 minutes without it. He also might consider to avoid the longer anticlimax after the story has reached it’s peak at the tragedy.
Given all the above splendors in every aspect, I think it’s a perfect movie in regard to understanding a classic literature. It’s certainly effective in conveying the old stuffy classic novel to the younger generation. And the fact that it was launched in summer among the big blockbuster movies like Ironman and Startrek, I think it shows the optimism that this “drama” movie is indeed fun to watch.
In reading a book or seeing a movie, I think it’s important that we gain value out of them, the good ones or the bad ones. By doing that, we will enrich ourselves with more sensitivity to whatever happen in our lives and in the world. We can broaden our point of view and sharpen our judgment , that eventually lead to a better wisdom. I used to do it easily from Jane Austen books, so much so that I made a novel about it. Now, with this story that’s not very Austenesque, I will try to point out some pointers.
Love never dies, especially for Gatsby. Now, if I were seeing this movie in my twenties when I experienced my first love, I probably would’ve gone THAT far to claim back my love for a girl who got away. But seeing it in my age turning fourty, I can only say that it is a foolish act. What Gatsby lacks of is the ability of LETTING GO, although it’s clear that he is a kind and loving person. He believes that he can get Daisy’s love for him just as much as it used to be. He doesn’t count that life has happened for Daisy in the course of five years they’ve been parted. She’s married! And MARRIAGE is a whole different perspective compared to LOVE. Gatsby doesn’t understand that.
On the other hand, Daisy is a “beautiful little fool”, just like the phrase she uses in wishing her daughter someday would be. However, the mirror has two faces, the coin has a head and a tail. For her own good life, Daisy is the one who can easily do the LETTING GO of her despair. She loves Gatsby so terribly, and even almost cancels her wedding with Tom upon receiving a letter from Gatsby one day before it. But when she’s back from the honeymoon, she’s desperately in love with her husband. Now, as much as this sounds rude, fool and heartless of Daisy, to easily convert her love from Gatsby to Tom, I personally think that trying your best to love the one you’re married to is the wisest thing to do. Everybody has some past that sometimes we need to put aside. Not because we hate the past, but more importantly because we understand that sometimes what’s past has no consequence to the future we’re about to build. Unfortunately, Tom is a bad husband compared to Gatsby, so people will easily judge Daisy as a fool for staying with Tom, rather than a wise person who’s trying to save her marriage.
Well, everyone, that’s what I FEEL about THE GREAT GATSBY. The current movie is definitely a lovely sight to see, and the book is a classic you need to read. And at the end of the book, as also spoken in the movie, we all should learn one thing from Gatsby, that whatever happen you should never give up on your dream and regain happiness you once had in your past. Just make sure that you do it the right way and for a good purpose.
“…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther, and one fine morning…so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”