A few weeks ago I watched Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby. I had put off watching it, fearful that it would fall short of the 1974 movie that as a teenage girl had me wringing my hands and my heart writhing with pain at the injustice done to Jay Gatsby.
For it is often that those long ago influences capture a part of us, particularly when youth catches us impressionable and full of yearning for beautiful men who long for just one woman.
This 1974 movie was also what drove me to discover F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is said to have described the book as his imaginary eldest brother. Though not a successful novel in his time, it is estimated that the novel’s sales average around 500,000 copies a year.
The story of Jay and Daisy reminds me much of Heathcliff and Cathy. Daisy and Cathy are both spoiled and selfish women. The men who loved them doomed from the moment their hearts opened and allowed these women passage to their souls.
Remakes are often a disappointment, even when decades have passed. Yet in watching the new Gatsby, with all its excess, I found myself once again leaving the walls of my home to be transported to another time and place.
These two versions of this wonderful story could not be more different. Yet the most important aspects have changed little. Redford’s Jay swelled my teenage heart. Leo’s Jay did the same for my middle aged one.
In comparison Redford’s Jay is a much more subtle portrayal. Calmer, though still with that underlying urgency to please Daisy. But as the film continued I found myself liking Leo’s Jay just that little bit more. His desperation is more palpable, his nervous energy when around Daisy makes him a little more vulnerable.
I have never liked the character of Daisy. After all, she threw Jay in to the whirlwind in both films. That said…what a wonderful character she must have been to write. Mia Farrow’s version of Daisy left me scornful of this silly, vapid and selfish woman. Carey Mulligan’s Daisy found me a little more sympathetic. Not much, but there were subtle nuances in her portrayal that in comparison Mia Farrow missed showing us.
The Buchanans as a unit are such wonderful villains. For villains they are. They remind me of a gin and tonic. Both bitter on their own. Yet it is when put together that they meld to take you down before you know it. In fact, the Buchanans belong together in their toxic relationship and worthless world.
Tobey Macquire took on admirably the role of Nick Carroway from Sam Waterston. Both men did a great job. Nick is a wonderful character as he narrates his way through the time he spent with Jay and Daisy. There is something haunting about Toby Macquire’s voice that I have always liked. I think that casting him as Nick was a wonderful choice.
The 2013 movie is most definitely a Lurhmann production. And he doesn’t always get it right. While I loved Moulin Rouge I disliked almost everything about Australia.
I think the cast is where he got this one right. Their performances added a dose of subtlety to his usual need for excess. I was prepared to hate this version. Instead I found myself falling in love with this story all over again. I knew I was lost when a familiar feeling was roused in my chest. I wanted to protect Jay from the inevitable.