I’m the resident literary nerd at my job, so when I happened to mention this week that I went to see The Great Gatsby opening night, all eyes were wide and expectant to hear my thoughts. And then…I for once, had a loss of words. In fact, a week later I’m still having trouble deciding what my reaction to the movie is. The reason, I’m one of those people who hated the book.
Like many of us, I read Fitzgerald’s classic in high school and didn’t enjoy the novel, at all. I didn’t enjoy it, not because I was forced to read the novel, but because I didn’t like the story and the characters. Daisy was so superficial and vapid, and I felt Gatsby was just a loser. Tom is an huge jerk (and I’m being nice) and Nick is follower who lacks a backbone. A book filled with so many unpleasant characters makes for an uncompelling story.
It is with those thoughts in mind that I flip-flopped on going to see Baz Lurhman’s adaptation. See, the thing is I love Baz’s films, specifically his Red Curtain series. I knew he would do his best to capture the spectacle of Fitzgerald’s world and that the film would be gorgeous, full of color and fantastical visions.
And I was right. The Great Gatsby is a beautiful film. The sets, the costumes, the graphics and special effects used, Baz’s camera movements that create such an fantastical film, were perfect. It is truly a visually stunning film. From a writer’s standpoint, Baz does a unique trick with the narration where the words, at times, float, fall, appear, cross the screen. This technique highlighted the beauty of the language from the novel and my heart soared at all those little moments. Lurhman also pulls some amazing performances from the actors, specifically Leonardo DiCaprio. Both men actually managed to do what Fitzgerald couldn’t – I actually cared about Gatsby. My eyes actually got misty at the end.
All of that love aside, I still did not like the story and that I feel is what may hamper the success of the film. No matter how one adapts a novel, how visually amazing a director may make it, if the story is lacking, there is no way to make it better. I enjoyed the visuals of the movie, but hated the story. Hence, why my reaction to the story is mixed. I can’t fully say I loved the movie because I still hated the story.
In the end, I neither hated nor loved The Great Gatsby. I’d recommend for folks to see Gatsby on the big screen, if only to see the spectacle and feel the fantasy that Lurhman creates. Will I see the movie again? most likely. Will I buy the DVD? Very likely.