During my carefree schoolgirl days, I would voraciously devour novel after novel especially during the holidays. Thankfully, the school library and friends with extensive collections were great sources. Otherwise I would’ve burnt a bigger hole in my dad’s humble pocket than I already had.
However, although I love to read, I wouldn’t say I’m a bookworm nor am I well-read. Preferring the likes of Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer, I rarely read classics unless compelled to do so for college assignments, for example. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald unfortunately falls into the never-read and never-had-to-read categories.
The 2013 The Great Gatsby screen adaptation by Baz Luhrmann then wouldn’t have excited me one bit if not for Leonardo DiCaprio. With compelling performances in my personal favorites namely Titanic, The Man In the Iron Mask, Catch Me If You Can (excellently paired with my other beloved actor, Tom Hanks), Blood Diamond, and Shutter Island, this is one actor who can set my heart aflutter. I say this not just because of his charming, boyish good looks, but Leonardo DiCaprio is fascinatingly talented and multi-faceted in his acting. So unless his movie reviewed horrendous, I would watch it at least once.
And so it was with The Great Gatsby. Having not read the book, I haven’t the vaguest idea of the storyline so I did a little snooping for what to expect. Admittedly, I was disappointed to discover Toby Maguire played a pivotal role. I’m obviously not a fan but let’s not delve into this.
After having to postpone it several times, it was finally THE movie night two nights ago. Upon realizing quite early into the movie that Toby Maguire (as Nick Carraway) would be narrating throughout, my heart sank. But no matter, I can look past this since surely the movie itself – with stellar performances and stunning visual effects – would be redeeming. Regretfully, things didn’t go as I had hoped. Even with the multitude of visual effects, absent were the intrigue, excitement, and heart-thumping romance. Instead it left a rather numbing effect on me much like how Nick Carraway must have felt that second time he got drunk.
The main events of the novel take place in the summer of 1922. Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and World War I veteran from the Midwest — who serves as the novel’s narrator — takes a job in New York as a bond salesman. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who holds extravagant parties but does not participate in them. Nick drives around the bay to East Egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, a college acquaintance of Nick’s. They introduce Nick to Jordan Baker, an attractive, cynical young golfer with whom Nick begins a romantic relationship. She reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the “valley of ashes”: an industrial dumping ground between West Egg and New York City. Not long after this revelation, Nick travels to New York City with Tom and Myrtle to an apartment they keep for their affair. At the apartment, a vulgar and bizarre party ends with Tom breaking Myrtle’s nose after she taunts Tom about Daisy.
As the summer progresses, Nick eventually receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Nick encounters Jordan Baker at the party, and they meet Gatsby himself, an aloof and surprisingly young man who recognizes Nick from their same division in the war. Through Jordan, Nick later learns that Gatsby knew Daisy from a romantic encounter in 1917 and is deeply in love with her. He spends many nights staring at the green light at the end of her dock, across the bay from his mansion, hoping to one day rekindle their lost romance. Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle and wild parties are an attempt to impress Daisy in the hopes that she will one day appear again at Gatsby’s doorstep. Gatsby now wants Nick to arrange a reunion between himself and Daisy.
Nick invites Daisy to have tea at his house, without telling her that Gatsby will also be there. After an initially awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy reestablish their connection. They begin an affair and, after a short time, Tom grows increasingly suspicious of his wife’s relationship with Gatsby. At a luncheon at the Buchanans’ house, Gatsby stares at Daisy with such undisguised passion that Tom realizes Gatsby is in love with her. Though Tom is himself involved in an extramarital affair, he is outraged by his wife’s infidelity. He forces the group to drive into New York City and confronts Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, asserting that he and Daisy have a history that Gatsby could never understand. In addition to that, he announces to his wife that Gatsby is a criminal whose fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities. Daisy realizes that her allegiance is to Tom, and Tom contemptuously sends her back to East Egg with Gatsby, attempting to prove that Gatsby cannot hurt him.
When Nick, Jordan, and Tom drive through the valley of ashes on their way home, they discover that Gatsby’s car has struck and killed Tom’s mistress, Myrtle. Nick later learns from Gatsby that Daisy, not Gatsby himself, was driving the car at the time of the accident but Gatsby intends to take the blame anyway. Myrtle’s husband, George, falsely concludes that the driver of the yellow car is the secret lover he recently began suspecting she has, and sets out on foot to locate its owner. After finding out the yellow car is Gatsby’s, he arrives at Gatsby’s mansion where he fatally shoots both Gatsby and then himself. Nick stages an unsettlingly small funeral for Gatsby, ends his relationship with Jordan, and moves back to the Midwest disillusioned with the Eastern lifestyle.
My Take On The Great Gatsby 2013 Movie
Prejudices aside, I do feel Toby Maguire was suitably cast as the disconcerted, ultimately chronically-alcoholic Nick Caraway. He played the role of disoriented observer (within and without) and sometimes unwilling or accidental partaker to a tee.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Great Jay Gatsby has earned him yet another feather to his already well-decorated cap. Successfully convincing as the handsome, suave, yet inscrutable millionaire. He’s built his life the past five years fueled by fiery, passionate ambition to win over the love of his life, Daisy Fay Buchanan (Carey Mulligan).
However, I don’t feel the insinuated explosive passion between Gatsby and Daisy. Flighty and indecisive, I found Daisy rather loathsome, far from lovable or lust-worthy. But of course I can only presume her character’s been laid out that way in the novel.
Even with its titillating portrayal of the “Roaring Twenties”, I felt begrudgingly listless when I’d wanted so much to add it to my list of favorites. Maybe it’s because of the tragic ending – I’m such a sucker for happy endings – but upon further analysis, that’s not it. There are critical missing elements I can’t put my finger on. All I know for sure is I dived into this year’s reel version with great expectations but emerged with even greater disillusionment.
Many say movie adaptions of novels are usually not true to the novels themselves. Reason being there isn’t enough time in movies to properly develop the characters and plots so most end up being choppy summaries at best. I dare not assert this is the doomed fate of The Great Gatsby 2013 since I’ve yet to sink my teeth into the transcendent novel. Perhaps the time has come for me to peruse the physical pages in all its original literary splendor.
To get me on my way, I’ve downloaded the pdf copy from Planet eBook and stored it on my mobile phone so I can immerse myself in its contents anywhere. Here’s wishing me a more rewarding journey of awakening. Only then can I hope to churn out a more reflective viewpoint of the movie.
Official website: The Great Gatsby
Free book download: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald