The only Gatsby review you need to read

Friday, 17 May, 2013

In the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford, Daisy Buchanan, played by Mia Farrow, tells Gatsby: “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys.” The line appears nowhere in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel and with good reason because by the time Daisy makes this remark in the Redford film, Jay Gatsby is very rich, which makes it an extremely silly thing for her to say. In his adaptation of the book, Baz Luhrmann avoids all such infelicities. His interpretation hews close to the original written word, and when he departs from the text it’s always to enhance the story with tweaks that support the astonishing visuals, made all the more fantastic in 3-D. These images are mainly of the vulgar culture of new money, which is what causes Daisy ultimately to leave Gatsby at the end of the story and stick with her brutal, boorish but old money husband.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

The moral of the story is that the elite win, always. Despite all the talk of meritocracy, it is a class-based society that Fitzgerald is writing about, and those who work hard, like poor Mr Wilson, are treated like dirt, and those who try to clamber to the top, like poor Jimmy Gatz, are treated with contempt.

Jordan Baker With Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, two uniquely talented actors lead Baz Luhrmann’s latest charge into the classics and they’re ably supported by a cast in which Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jordan Baker, is outstanding. Carey Mulligan is a rather pallid Daisy Buchanan, while Joel Edgerton as her husband Tom is the only weak link in the chain. Otherwise, this is as good as it gets. Thanks to Luhrmann, Gatsby continues to be “great” because the film, like the book, contrasts idealism with corruption and bravely accepts the reality of death and loss.

The brash new world of the New World, with its sexual freedom, motorcars, youth, money, gin, rum and whiskey is in your face throughout the film and Baz Luhrmann makes the real star of the novel, pagan and glamorous New York City, look like the magic kingdom. Do see it.

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