Not having read the book in high school (due to my transferring between schools with two different English literature curricula, resulting in my having missed the reading of Gatsby by the time I had transferred), I read through the book at the beginning of May, finishing it about a week before yesterday.
Since this movie is based on the book, this review will have a bit of comparison between Fitzgerald’s novel and Luhrmann’s film.
The movie begins with Nick Carraway (Tobey McGuire) in a sanatorium looking at a long list of mental illnesses (supposedly the ones he is diagnosed with) including insomnia, anxiety, and depression to name a few. His doctor
tells him to write down his thoughts because it will put him at ease and help him better articulate his thoughts. Through Nick’s writing we learn the story of Jay Gatsby.
Nick takes a trip to visit Daisy Buchanan, his cousin, her husband, Tom Buchanan and Jordan Baker, a friend of theirs. Just as in the book, the two ladies are on the chairs, laying down, and the whole scene is embellished wonderfully by the white linen curtains flowing through the air in midst of the breeze coming from the screen doors.
I love the fact that they kept one of my favorite quotes from the novel, where Daisy says to Jordan and Nick, “I’ll sort of—oh—fling you together. You know—lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push you out to sea in a boat…”
And might I add that Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) is simply stunning in this film! She should be permanently brunette. How is this girl not more famous?!
When Tom and Nick go out together on the Long Island Railroad, and jump off the train to see Myrtle, Tom’s mistress that calls on the phone during supper the evening prior, things begin to get wild.
My favorite scene is where Myrtle, Tom, Nick and the rest of the people in that small room get completely wasted. Nick almost escaped the craziness, telling Tom that he didn’t feel comfortable being there while he was cheating on his cousin, but he gets coaxed into staying.
Oh my gosh. Feathers from pillows flew through the air, everyone begins to jump and hump around (I kid you not), Tom gives Nick liquor to drink in a vase, and Nick begins to see himself “within and without.”
Well then. I’ve never been drunk before, or been around people who were that drunk before, but according to my friend this is an accurate depiction of the college party scene.
After Nick gets an invitation to Gatsby’s, I got really excited, because this was the moment I was waiting for:
The little party that never killed anybody.
I wish I knew a Gatsby. Those parties look so much fun!
At the party, to which Nick is the only one invited because, as stated in the book and by Jordan Baker, “people were not invited—they went there”, Gatsby requests to see Jordan Baker privately. There he tells her about his plan to have Daisy go over to Nick’s for tea so that they can meet up again.
Nick is not told of any of this until he and Gatsby go out to lunch the next day.
At lunch, which is a private place entered through a hole in the wall of a barber shop, we meet Wolfsheim, played by Amitabh Bachchan, who indeed looks like a wolf with all that facial hair! Tom appears at this lunch date as well, causing Gatsby to make awkward facial expressions when he realizes this is Daisy’s husband—the only thing standing in the way between him and Daisy’s romance.
Nick agrees to arrange the tea date with Daisy and Gatsby. Myself and the other people in the theater found it hilarious when we saw what Gatsby ordered to have done to Nick’s lawn. He even brought a entire greenhouse worth of flowers into the room where they were to have tea! Jeez! In the book I was under the impression that it was just a little grass trimming and a couple of flowers in a few vases!
Nervous as ever, when Daisy arrives Gatsby runs outside, getting completely drenched in the rain, only to come inside looking like a wet dog. To top it off, he knocks over Nick’s clock and can’t seem to put it back together.
I thought it was the cutest thing though!
If you’ve read the book, you know how it all ends up. I will say though, that the deaths in the movie were dramatized very well. As Myrtle’s body flew through the air, I couldn’t help but think how much this was all Daisy’s fault. Daisy killed Gatsby. Figuratively, of course. She was the last word on his lips. I was deeply moved as I watched Gatsby’s body float lifelessly in that lavish pool, realizing that not a single soul would attend that man’s funeral, except Nick.
The film overall was great. I love the way they did the scenery. I really wish West and East Egg were real. The towns looked so fantastical.
I was confused though, as to why they dyed Carey Mulligan’s hair blonde. In the book, Daisy is a brunette!
“he sat with Daisy in his arms for a long, silent time […] once he kissed her dark shining hair…”
I don’t know how the casting crew overlooked this little detail, or what would possess them to change it. Carey Mulligan is a natural brunette after all…
The costumes were so vibrant and shiny. Kudos to whoever designed them!
The music in the film was also really good. My only complaint about the music, however, is the number of times they used Lana del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful.” Two times is fine. But no. They used several instrumental versions, a jazzed up version for the party scene, and then the original. I’m sorry, but now the song has been played out in my head.
If you have not seen the film yet I suggest you do so!