Our Great Gatsby

Our Great Gatsby

The modern Hollywood blockbusting director  Baz Luhrmann makes a movie out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American novel, The Great Gatsby.

It’s only asking for polarized reviews: Book purists condemn modern shameless Hollywood’s “bastardization” of their classic, while high school babies fresh from their first taste of the story coo at the 3D fireworks and embed the movie’s all-star cast into their impressionable memories as substitutes for characters of their own imaginations.

Being neither of the two, I accepted the movie in fair warning of Luhrmann as the director, and in appreciation of Fitzgerald’s storytelling.

Considering Luhrmann’s previous works Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge alone, I expected the over-the-top, border-Broadway, people-pleasing costumes, set design, theatrics, casting, and direction. His rendition is a gorgeous work of art, skimping only very little detail from the author’s story and using every technique characteristic to his particular style to encapsulate the very definition of modern.
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Luhrmann himself defends the movie as something like his gift to our generation. That such a timeless story could be transplanted in any human era. And that Gatsby’s hope is a universal human condition. In his modern production, Luhrmann resurrects the relevance of Fitzgerald’s past social criticisms on his society as readily mirrored onto our society.

Despite the use of noticeably more modern styles throughout the movie–from the clothes and the dancing to the cars and the drinking–the movie style (short of its full 3D glory, even I can’t embrace all of Hollywood’s bullshit) was not necessarily incongruous to the book. Luhrmann’s choice in depicting Fitzgeralds’ literary imagery to almost hyperbolic proportions results in fantastic scenes I thought were appropriately ridiculous.

In one scene, Gatsby Leo’s entrance and introduction to us the audience is paired with the subtlety of explosive fireworks, marking the moment as emphatically unforgettable. The parallel moment in the book follows:

“He smiled understandingly–much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it… It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on *you* with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

The scene was ridiculous, yet the emphasis was appropriate.

And to consider the whole movie like a scene like that, you can discard it, or you can take it for what it’s worth: an example of shameless aesthetic, yet an homage to Fitzgerald’s story, but most importantly a movie created in the likeness of our time.

And so I’m taking this movie as Luhrmann so gorgeously made it: the gift of a bookmark to our generation in the history of The Great Gatsby.

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