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More Thoughts on Gatsby For a New Generation

Great-Gatsby-Movie-e1380168544946The Great Gatsby follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her philandering, blue-blooded husband Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles. (Amazon.com description)

Story

As a first-person narrated story, there are some changes that are necessary to the change of medium from book to film. Perhaps the most noticeable alteration is the framing device used to explain Nick Carraway’s narration of the events of that fateful summer on West Egg.

I’m not a big fan of framing devices in general and after viewing this version for the first time, I have not yet decided if the telling of the story could have been smoother without the use of the sanitorium.

Another change to the story I struggled with the non-presence of Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s daughter, Pammy. She only makes an appearance towards the end of the film although it’s clear to Nick early on that she in fact exists.  It’s as if Luhrmann has forgotten that Tom and Daisy’s marriage was consummated and resulted in a child, Pammy.

For all of Jay Gatsby’s eternal hope and optimism, it is left unclear in the film whether he is aware of Pammy’s presence. I wonder if he would be as willing to break up the marriage union if he knew there was a child in the picture.  Unfortunately we’ll never know.

Visuals

Absolutely exquisite film. Baz Luhrmann’s signature extravagant visuals with contemporary music dazzle and explode on the screen, the very incarnation of Fitzgerald’s depictions of the wild and lavish parties at Gatsby’s West Egg mansion.

Luhrmann pays humble tribute to the green dock light on Tom and Daisy’s home on East Egg. The light is portrayed with heavy fog and an unearthly emerald glow that gives it the ‘enchanted object’ feel Fitzgerald describes in his book.

My favorite visuals from the film are perhaps from one of its simplest, most profound moments.  As Nick extrapolated on his lost generation:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The words of the narration themselves form this lovely image of rain or snow falling on New York. Carraway seals his Fitzgerald-esque comparison with the final scene (but I shan’t spoil it).

I absolutely adored this film version. It is every bibliophile’s wet dream to see a film so close to the original vision of the author as Luhrmann’s tribute to Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Purists may balk at the appearance of Jay-Z and the use of some contemporary music in a period setting but I think for a reboot that this method has a lovely way of transferring ideas from one generation to another.

Bravo, Baz.

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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has seventeen years of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). Lauren is the Managing Web Editor and writer for The Scribe, a web publication of the St. Louis Writers Guild, where she also serves as their Director of Communications. She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at LaurenJoanMiller.com.

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