The Buzz: The Great Gatsby

The Buzz: The Great Gatsby

When I heard that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic was to be released as a major motion picture, I was rather concerned. I did not wish for the acclaimed high school reading list perennial to turn out as yet another distorted book-to-movie adaptation. As the release date neared, I chose to put aside whatever literary agenda I was inclined to bring with me—for pure entertainment. I had no reason to, as the original storyline squeezes quite nicely into the film.

The mysterious and heartrending story of the party-giving millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) follows narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and heads to New York City for Wall Street, rampant with postwar exuberance. Carraway lands in a sylvan cottage in Long Island’s nouveau-rich West Egg, across the bay from his airheaded cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Next door lives the enigmatic plutocrat Jay Gatsby. Through a single invitation to one of his outlandish evening parties, Carraway is almost forcefully drawn into the world of the rich and exposed to the impossible love between Daisy and Gatsby.

After having sat through the first half of the film, I was quite surprised that the film managed to stay faithful to the novel as yet. Still, I feared that director Baz Luhrmann had merely resorted to the sensationalism of it all. I was wrong—Lurhmann proved himself to be a genius. His production highlights the happy-go-lucky lifestyle upper class New Yorkers maintained during the Roaring 20’s. The menagerie of stunning visuals, detailed camerawork, and exquisite scenery illuminate the characters’ distorted understandings of reality, love, and their empty perception of the latter. Luhrmann’s distinctive style allows Fitzgerald’s derisive opinion of the glittering era pull through quite clearly. The Jay-Z produced soundtrack is a clash between modern hip hop and 1920’s jazz, which further establishes the film as a jewel of the lot. What kept my eyes glued to the screen during the bawdy party scene was the unique experience of hearing various contemporary artists blend into classic Gershwin tunes. Every single song in the soundtrack is truly fitting for whatever scene it graces and represents the turmoil within the characters as well.

And the acting is amazing. I really cannot think of a better cast than what has been offered. DiCaprio boasts a simply astounding performance. Through his voice and body language, the long-time screen star captures Gatsby’s persona effortlessly and makes the seemingly unplayable role achingly real. The rest of the cast is outstanding as well. To say that I was pleased with their exceptional performances would be a great understatement.

As picky as I am, this movie succeeded to appeal to my good side. But I fear that not everyone will perceive the film in the way that I did. So here is a bit of advice. If you choose to watch this film, don’t see it as merely a sad, love story. Because it’s not. Rather, it is a tale of impossible love, true friendship, blazing passion, and ultimate betrayal—all used to fashion one man’s skewed perspective of the American Dream.