The Great Gatsby (2013) is a movie adaptation of a novel of the same name written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925. It’s a story about nothing, everything, life, love, obsession and the human condition. We are thrown into a world of opulence, theatrics, beauty and the muchness of life in 1920s New York and we’re told that ultimately it means nothing.
We’re introduced by our narrator Nick, to a neglected wife (his cousin Daisy) whose husband (Tom) openly cheats on her, and her reunion with her first love, Gatsby. Gatsby is a charismatic man of thirty born essentially penniless but with higher aspirations for his life. On his journey to his better life, he meets Daisy a socialite and falls in love but they are separated due to WWI. She moves on, marries a very wealthy man and has a child with him, but unable to forget her Gatsby devotes his entire life to creating the life he wants to live with her.
He buys a house directly opposite hers across a river and throws lavish parties as a way of getting her attention. His way of revealing himself to her is theatrical and is overly complicated. He becomes obsessed with recreating the past. At one point in the movie Daisy talks about running away together, but Gatsby unwilling to leave his toys tells her that is not an option, he wants them to go back to the beginning where they first met and act as if no time had passed. It’s obvious that his love for her is not real.
He pulls out a scrap book from his shelf that contains all their love letters, newspaper clippings about her. He has stalked her the whole time they’ve been apart, and more than anything it seems like he wants to add her to his collection of things. They have an affair and he dismisses his staff, stops having parties and focuses everything on her. Poor Daisy. On one hand she has a husband who regularly cheats on her but claims to love her, on the other hand a man who has literally devoted his life to the image he has of her in his mind. She understands that she’s a commodity to these men and knows that as a woman in that time period there isn’t a lot she can do about it.
Eventually Gatsby tells her husband of their love, and bullies Daisy into admitting that she never loved her husband. She cannot, drama ensues and she defaults with Tom as he can guarantee her security. Here things become terrible. Due to mistaken identity Tom’s mistress dies, Gatsby is blamed and the mistress’ husband kills Gatsby and himself. It’s all so tragic, and so pointless. Had Gatsby accepted that the past is unchangeable, had Daisy been able to stand up for her desires, had Tom not been an adulterer and had Nick taken any real action instead of allowing himself to be swept along then they might have all been able to find true happiness. But instead they all decided to wish upon the green light, to chase a dream, to focus on outward appearances and refuse to change the status quo. In many ways The Great Gatsby can be compared to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
As much as I empathised with Daisy, Jordan was my favourite character. Nick the narrator is the stand-in for the audience, Jordan is the stand-in for all that is wrong with high society of the time. She a rich ameteur golfer with plenty of money and plenty of suitors. She finds things that are morbid wildly entertaining, is constantly in search of a good time and rarely shows emotion at the appropriate time. Dead body? How terribly droll, but Nick won’t come inside, wait for a taxi and have dinner with the gang? Contempt.
Even though I wasn’t expecting much from this movie I actually enjoyed it a lot. I don’t normally like Toby Maguire movies, he always has this weirdly constipated squinty face, but I think it somehow worked for the character of Nick. I felt like I was watching a novel, and yet I didn’t get the feeling like they skipped anything like you sometimes get with movie adaptations. But, without knowing the source material, I can’t say for sure. Honestly, all the actors did an amazing job, as did the special effect, set and costume designers, I really felt like I was in that world. Would I watch it again? I’m not sure. It has a pretty depressing message. Still! I’d probably go to a Gatsby themed party, because you see even though I know that all that glitters is not gold, I still love how it sparklets. I believe in the Green Light.