“And so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past”
You can’t even be upset with Baz Lurhmann’s bringing The Great Gatsby back to life in a, “holy sh*t, all of this glitter is hurting my eyes,” type-fashion, because I mean, it’s Baz Lurhmann: the same guy who brought us Moulin Rouge! and Romeo and Juliet. So going into Gatsby accepting this fact makes all of the fluff that much more enjoyable (plus, it’s impossible to even so little as hate Carey Mulligan!).
To my surprise, after re-watching Jack Clayton’s 1974 original the other week (sidenote: Robert Redford will always be Jay Gatsby in my heart; sorry, Leo) and reading the book a number of years ago (not going to lie and pretend like it was last week), Lurhmann clings to the story (like, West Egg is still called West Egg!) quite well. Except, is it weird that I wanted even more glitter and champagne (don’t judge)?
And I mean, obviously the roaring twenties had nothing to do with driving around drinking loads of champagne while Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin'” plays in the background (though, they might have been pretty fun if that were the case), but that’s the point; Lurhmann takes this elegant F. Scott Fitzgerald 20th century classic and morphs it into this loud, colorful, contemporary world of excess that looks a lot like a million dollar exploded piñata on steroids—“GATSBY 3D: THE JAZZENING,” as Film Drunk recalls it (as they should have, with a $127,000,000 budget.)
Besides all of that jazz (oh, did I mention there’s lots of jazz?), Toby McGuire narrates the entire story, as Daisy’s (Carey Mulligan) cousin Nick Carraway. In the beginning, he is in a rehabilitation center (cuz you know how they got down in the 20s) raving about Gatsby—how the only good thing he remembers from it “all” is how “great” Gatsby was. Carraway’s psychologist basically gives him the, “well if you love Gatsby so much, why don’t you write a story about him?” spiel, and the next thing you know Carraway is recalling the story’s entirety from the very beginning.
Tom Buchanan, played by Joel Edgerton, doesn’t get as wasted as Bruce Dern did in the original, but he’s definitely still a drunken jerk (whose stache was sub-par, in my opinion.) His wife Daisy (Mulligan), who’s secretly been in love with Gatsby for five years, has been living a lie—marrying Tom in spite of her misfortune with Gatsby’s letter (if only they had the Internet back then!).
Which brings us to Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. Oh Leo! How I love you so. But it doesn’t look like this particular performance was anything Oscar-worthy (WARNING: there’s a scene towards the end in which you might turn on Leo; he wears a really ill-fitting black tank top!), unless you count the one scene where he tells Tom Buchanan to shut up and it looks like his head is going to explode, or the fact he calls everyone, “Old Sport,” the entire time. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.
So, if you can get past the fact that 2013’s Great Gatsby is a pretty obnoxious version of the book, then you’re halfway there. The rest is just enjoying it for what it is: a Baz Lurhmann film with a star-studded cast. And who knows, maybe you’ll even pick up Fitzgerald’s book again for a little classic American literature refresher course…
(photo via Fan Pop)