I still don’t know what to say about this. In some ways, it’s perfect, in others, perfectly awful. The look of it is mostly spot on, from the gorgeous credits to the clothes, the cars, but then some of it gets a bit much. There’s a very fine line between almost too much and too much and Gatsby crosses it fairly often, and then comes back. The green light, which I never thought too much of as a symbol, I thought was well done. The houses looked fake. The parties looked fab. The music – almost all wrong.
It opens in a sanitarium. Nick Carraway has apparently been driven mad by his life in West Egg. Unnecessary framing structure. Him on a train, thinking and smoking, or even writing in some small apartment, fine. Being jollied out of his lunacy by a Wilford Brimley type psychiatrist? Bad. Nick never had that much invested in the whole parade. He does have a writer’s mentality, I think, so I could buy that, but the whole callow youth sort of swept up in the madness of the 20s and left a hollow wreck by it is just nowhere in the book. Nick’s an observer, close to Gatsby’s age, went to Yale, he didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. So, Nick all wrong. And from what I’ve read, Fitzgerald identified with Gatsby, not Nick.
But Tom Buchanan by Joel Edgerton – excellent. He was great. And I didn’t think anyone could be great at that. Tom’s such a louse. So full of himself and such a worm. He hits every note – the privilege, the snobbery, the racism, the slimy slumming with Myrtle, the competitiveness, the cowardice. Myrtle’s also great. Her first outfit, I wasn’t so sure, and I think their love nest and that whole scene went over the line into too much territory, but Myrtle was great.
Jordan was very good. But Daisy. I’m not sure it’s possible for anyone to play Daisy and get it right, but one thing Daisy isn’t is soft. She maybe would like to be, but she isn’t. She can’t wait for Gatsby so when Tom gives her $350K pearl necklace she loves him. About 15 minutes later he cheats on her and then she’s just stuck and cynical and yet somehow right where she should be. She isn’t romantic like Gatsby. She’s unhappy, but also brittle and hard. I think either the woman who played Jordan or Isla Fisher who played Myrtle would’ve been better. Daisy’s bored. When Gatsby comes back into her life, she’s interested again, but it doesn’t mean to her what it does to him.
Leonardo DiCaprio is almost entirely excellent. And I think where he isn’t it’s a directorial choice. Gatsby’s smile is supposed to be a real winner – a rare, light up your life event. DiCaprio’s smile on this occasion was lame. Way lame. But so much of it was dead on — his nervousness at seeing Daisy, his bravado, his cool, his nouveau riche over the top house and parties, his sensitivity, his charm and control, his obsessive love and naivete.
Usually I love Baz Luhrmann and the over-the-topness, but this time, while I loved some of it, it then would go past the line and becoming something cloying, sentimental, something that believed its own hype. The scene at the end in the pool, for example. All I could think was Titanic. And I haven’t even seen Titanic. And the funeral’s all wrong. And Nick’s all wrong. And Owl Eyes shouldn’t be some old professor. So while I think there are some pieces of Gatsby in this movie, I think the essence of it was somehow missed.
And once again I must close with the funniest thing ever:
Ain’t no party like a Gatsby party
because a Gatsby party don’t stop
until at least two people are dead and everyone is disillusioned with the jazz age as a whole.
This counts as the movie version of a classic.