I’ve always had issues with The Great Gatsby. When reading the book in high school, I found myself underwhelmed by the story and its characters. Admittedly, my dislike for the book could be attributed to the English class and the fact that I was required to read it (also everyone else LOVED it and that made me dislike it even more). In college I played Myrtle in a Gatsby-adapted play written by a fellow student. The play was set in modern day Washington D.C., with Gatsby as a female senator trying to hide her lesbian identity and especially her torrid affair with Daisy. I didn’t like that version either– the story still fell flat and the characters didn’t resonate with me at all.
I never saw the Robert Redford film, so coming into Baz Luhrmann’s movie of The Great Gatsby was new territory for me. I half expected to love it, half expected to be disappointed.
The movie’s opening title design– a gold and silver deco thing– acts like the front and back covers of a book: bringing us into the world of the story and leading us back out at the end. In a way, we’re inside a book while also being very much in a Movie– with the dramatic-ness, the big visual-ness of it, especially the 3D version.
I watched the film in both 3D and 2D and I can tell you right now that it’s totally worth it to see it in 3D (unless 3D in general gives you a headache or something, or you just don’t like 3D regardless of the movie). The 3D version made me feel like I was part of the story– as the audience I became the active observer who validates the actions of the characters. The whole thing is about being watched, you see. The line, “G-d is always watching” is repeated several times. We as the audience see and know all their secrets. The 3D also gives the visual effects more pop, and adds to the visual decadence and “big-ness” of the whole thing. I felt pulled inside and thrust along with the characters on the busy streets of 1920s New York and the glittery crowds of Gatsby’s parties.
So, as a movie adaptation of the Gatsby story, I feel it is very successful. I must admit that I read the book over ten years ago, and so can’t speak to how true the actual book is being followed. But this is an old story, one that is part of our cultural consciousness in this country whether we’ve read the book or not. This movie is a cinematic, exciting, tension-filled, well-acted and visually stimulating adaptation of that story.
The character in this story I am most interested in (and the one I find most problematic) is Daisy. She is described as shallow, manipulative and careless, as well as perfect, golden and beautiful. She is the shadow and projection of the male characters’ fantasies, leaving little room for her own person. Carrie Mulligan gives a depth to Daisy which lets us see a hint of something more. I’ve always wondered about Daisy’s side of all this, being thrust in between two men who want to control her and make her live the life they want with her.
Mulligan’s performance is satisfying and three-dimmentional, standing up right alongside Leonardo DiCaprio’s fantastic Gatsby. The photo above is from the first time we meet Gatsby in the movie, in a beautiful, perfect and hilarious shot of his smile– which made me laugh out loud in delight.
In short– I really liked the movie! The only thing I feel weakens it is the framing structure of Nick Carraway in some kind of sanatorium for being “morbidly alcoholic.”
The Great Gatsby is now playing at Images Cinema thru Thursday June 6, in both 2D and 3D. Visit our website for info and showtimes: http://www.imagescinema.org.