What can I say about The Great Gatsby that hasn’t already been said? Probably not a lot, as this critically acclaimed film was highly popular when it was released, and has remained a favourite of mine ever since I first saw it. In Baz Luhrmann’s inimitable directorial style, The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway’s strange, wonderful, and ultimately tragic experiences in the spring of 1922 when he finds himself living next door to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby.
This version of the film features a modern soundtrack with some electroswing numbers, in keeping with the 1920s feeling. The choice of music alongside the 1920s inspired – but not period accurate – aesthetic of the film really give the story the sense of wild abandon and huge excess experienced by the characters through their alcohol-fuelled New York lifestyle and Gatsby’s famous parties. In this instance the use of a modern vision of the 1920s really helps to give the story a sense of realism which allows the viewer to experience and understand what New York feels like to Nick. To me, it’s a wonderful invocation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s storytelling and Nick’s gradual realisation that his friends may not be the kind of people he had originally thought they were.
As far as the acting goes, I’ve seen some discussion of Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Daisy, for example, as being vapid and self-absorbed, lacking dimension. To those people I’d say that this is exactly the point, and that watching the film or indeed reading the novel with this in mind demonstrates that Fitzgerald’s commentary on the lifestyle is a criticism rather than a celebration.
If you haven’t already read the book, I’d also highly recommend that. It’s quite a quick read and very enjoyable, and will satisfy anyone who is more of a purist or dislikes Baz Luhrmann’s distinctive style.