The Great Gatsby was a rite of passage in the 11th grade. For two weeks, we thoughtfully discussed the symbolism of the green light and American consumerism in the ’20s. Some classes were lucky enough to have ’20s costume day, where all the girls donned headbands and the boys picked up some suspenders at the local Goodwill. I loved The Great Gatsby then, but I didn’t truly understand its brilliance until college, where I took a literary theory class and completely dissected the text, word by word.
I’m not going to go into that, but if you want to talk about commodity fetishism and reading Fitzgerald through the feminist lens, I am totally happy to e-mail you about it. What I want to quietly freak out about right now is the imminent release of the film adaptation. In eight days, The Great Gatsby is going to be playing in theatres, and it’s going to be amazing. If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of watching the older versions of The Great Gatsby (Paul Rudd is in the 2000 made-for-TV version, but he’s really cute in it, though), you understand that pulling this off was hard. Is hard. For I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m optimistic, because:
1. It’s directed by Baz Luhrman
Luhrman is famously known for directing avant garde Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!, two period pieces infused with post-modern flare. Most of Romeo + Juliet (1996) was shot in Mexico City, and some in Miami to set the scene of a contemporary, beached-out Verona. The Shakespearean characters were totally modernized, yet Luhrman kept the script pretty close to the unabridged version, respecting both film aesthetics and literature. All of Luhrman’s movies have been downright cool, over-the-top in a way that’s both humorous and wonderfully dramatic. He capitalizes on tragedy through a glittery build up of tension, and the tension is epic.
2. Leo is Jay Gatsby.
Or should I say, James Gatz? Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect man for the job; he’s handsome and can seamlessly play the role the desperate romantic (as we have seen in Romeo + Juliet and Titanic). Gatsby is a complex character; is he in love with Daisy, or is he in love with the idea of Daisy? The true Jay Gatsby will be just as in love with his material wealth as he is with the girl of his dreams, and often the two blend together.
3. Carey Mulligan is Daisy.
Carey is playing Jay’s beloved rich and ephemeral Daisy Buchanan, and I think this is perfect. I’ve only seen Mulligan in Drive, Shame and An Education, but in each movie, she has each female character spotlessly pinned. She is simultaneously weak, strong, charming, disenchanting and sorrowful. She is capable of loving a man for his character and leaving him for greater status. She is a natural for breaking things.
4. The soundtrack is perfect.
The other Jay (Jay-Z) scored The Great Gatsby, embedding pop, hip-hop and indie into Gatsby’s world of glamour, deceit and Americana. The soundtrack includes Florence and the Machine, the xx, Lana Del Rey, Beyonce & Andre 3000, Sia, Jack White, and more. There are covers, such as Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”, which Beyoncé and Andre 3000 re-invent, as well as Jack White’s U2 cover, “Love is Blindness” and will.i.am’s rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”. The soundtrack is this fabulous and ballsy mix of old and new. A perfect blend for such a timely story. Furthermore, it’s important that this film’s soundtrack centers on current genres of music, because Fitzgerald’s fiction was primarily based around 20’s jazz (read Tales of the Jazz Age); music was everything, and it set the scene. In our 2013 version of The Great Gatsby, it would be uninspired to work with a music identity that isn’t our own. Jay-Z masterfully identifies the new Great Gatsby’s music culture, and remixes American literature, with Top 40. Give the soundtrack a listen here on NPR. It’s pretty brilliant.
Not all books can be successfully interpreted into film. Not all plots are able to lend themselves to the screen so easily. But a plot like the one in Gatsby is so ripe for Hollywood’s picking, that it’s almost shocking that it’s never been executed successfully. Maybe it wasn’t ever meant to be, until now.
Featured image via abcnews