Borne Ceaselessly Into The Past

I just got home from seeing The Great Gatsby with my mom tonight. This was a big deal because I was going to go alone today regardless, and my mom goes to the movies maybe once a year. Seriously, it’s a big deal.

Charleston! Glitter! Dense symbolism about the American Dream!

Charleston! Glitter! Dense symbolism about the American Dream!

Anyway, I really enjoyed the adaptation. Once you get past the Baz Luhrman of it all, (I’m a huge fan. I even like Australia.) The Great Gatsby is a remarkable film and an incredible adaptation. Not a surprise, Baz nailed every inch of Gatsby’s symbolism. This story is more of a parable than anything else. With Nick as The American People, we see Jay Gatsby as The American Ideal, Daisy Buchanan as The American Dream, and Tom Buchanan as The Establishment. This is all abundantly clear in Baz’s interpretation of Fitzgerald’s story.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorite writers. I love him, his life and his work. When I read his short stories my senior year of college I literally sat on my bed gasping. His work is mesmerizing. Except The Beautiful and The Damned. Skip that shit if you can, because I was bored out of my mind trying to read it.

Anyway, like any good lit nerd, I fantasize about hanging out in Paris in the 20’s with Scott and Ernest Hemingway and Cole Porter. Drinking and going to parties and feeling existentially disconnected.

No one articulated that disconnect better that Fitzgerald. And he never did it better than he did in Gatsby. Anyway, back to the parable.

By the time that Nick (The American People, unassuming, willing to work and open) encounters Gatsby (The American Ideal, self made, disciplined and wide eyed) he has already been corrupted by the yearning for Daisy (The American Dream, money, prestige and legacy) who has hitched her wagon to Tom (The Establishment, which is self explanatory.) No matter how hard Gatsby tries, he can never quite reach Daisy, she is chained by her own mind and the way the world works to Tom. But as The Ideal, Gatsby can’t let go of Daisy, The Dream. He says it himself, “I knew it was dangerous for a man like me to fall in love.” He was going to focus on his dream until the end.

I got a few of my wishes when it came to this movie. We have a clearer picture of Gatsby, he truly is a caricature of himself. He’s formed his entire life to the ideal, that’s the most important thing. Gaining Daisy is no different to him than the money, the parties or the house. She’s the cherry on top of his sundae. This is proved when she offers at several times to run away with him. When she says, “You ask too much,” she means it.

Additionally, my big problem with previous adaptations has been the shift of focus from Nick. Baz’s Gatsby is very much about Nick. Without spoiling film specifics, he uses a rather ingenious framing device that I didn’t completely love, but totally understood, in order to do so. Tobey Maguire is relate-able and holds your attention, which is basically the point of a narrator, specifically of Nick, who’s an everyman. In fact all of the performances are spot on. Leonardo DiCaprio, who I have never seen give what one can call a “bad” performance was exceptional. Joel Edgerton scowled and bullied his way through Tom Buchanan beautifully. Isla Fisher is remarkable as poor doomed Myrtle Wilson. I loved Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker (a character I’ve always loved, for her sarcasm and complete disdain for those around her.) But Carey Mulligan is truly amazing.

I loved Mulligan in An Education, and of course her turn as Sally Sparrow in “Blink” the most frightening episode of Doctor Who ever is completely legendary. But she is Daisy, which is amazing, since as I’ve said before, Daisy isn’t so much a person, as an image. To Gatsby, she is the image of his dream. To Nick, she is the image of goodness corrupted. To Tom she is the image of his dominance. To Fitzgerald, she was the image of everything he could never touch.(Scott considered Nick the man he was, and Gatsby the man he wished he could be. It’s so sad that this man died believing the world thought he was a hack.) But Mulligan makes you care about her, as if she were an actual human being. A feat that Mia Farrow, as much as I love her, was not able to pull off.

Overall, it’s a very good adaptation, and whether Baz’s vision will hold up in a few years is going to be worth seeing. It was less manic than his previous work. Compared to Moulin Rouge! it was downright slow, but in the hyper Baz energy, you missed some of the languid pained summer heat silences that are described in the book.

But overall I enjoyed it.

Trailers: I was shocked that this Warner Brothers released movie had no Man of Steel trailer. I’m still really excited for Star Trek: Into Darkness, even though there was nothing new there. August: Osage County looks like a great excuse for Ewan McGregor to use another southern accent, so there’s that.

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