Well, The Great Gatsby movie has been out for over a week now, and I must say that I haven’t heard too many rave reviews. What I have heard about it is a mixed bag. While I have heard that the casting was well done, I have also heard that the movie is simply over the top and does not stay true to the original novel in ways that viewers were hoping for.
People seem to have one of two opinions on The Great Gatsby. Either they love it or they hate it – I have not seen much in between. Gatsby was one of my favorite books that I read in tenth grade, and I reread it over the summer in college. In my rereading, I did find the descriptions to be somewhat over the top – more so than I had remembered – but that did not change my opinion of the book too much, and I still enjoyed it.
I think maybe the reason why I enjoyed it so much was because it was such a visual read. Fitzgerald really emphasizes description, setting, and colors in his writing, and while that did slow down the narrative at times, it gave me a very specific image of Nick Carraway’s world, and his opinions on that world.
What’s more is that I feel like I have been there myself. The story is set in the imaginary Long Island town of West Egg and New York City. Long Island is one of my favorite places, and I know it well as I have been going there since I was little. I also grew up in New York, so both of these locations are familiar old haunts of mine.
I feel like it is pretentious to say that The Great Gatsby hits close to home for me, because that is not true. I do not live the extravagant life of Jay Gatsby in a disillusioned Jazz Age like era – thankfully I am much more low key than that. That is not what is familiar to me while reading The Great Gatsby. Instead it’s the settings themselves, not the people, that stick with me the most when reading this book.
When I imagine the setting, I think of the air and the light of Long Island in the summer and even some of the specific places on the island. I picture the famous glasses billboard and The Valley of Ashes to be somewhere on the L.I.E. Many years ago when I was little, there was a fire off of the highway that we could see in the distance from our kitchen window. We passed the remains of burned trees for a long time after that while traveling back and forth to the city. For me, that is where the billboard and the gas station are in Gatsby.
Even though the last time I read Gatsby was a few years ago now, there are still certain scenes that stick out to me when thinking about the book. The city, of course, is easy for me to imagine, although it is a different New York than the one I live in now. Another scene I have constructed for myself is where Daisy is introduced for the first time in a whirlwind of breezes and white. I don’t know if, for me, this is based on any specific house I have been to in my life, but I feel like I can imagine what it would be very well. And Gatsby’s parties I imagine to be on one specific lawn that leads down to the water.
I remember watching a scene from the old Great Gatsby movie with Robert Redford while reading the book in school, and even then the settings in the movie interrupted the setting I had built for myself in my head. I can only imagine what seeing the glitzy 3D Gatsby film would do to my personal Gatsby world.
I also have some issues with the way the film was approached. I have heard that the soundtrack is done by modern artists such as Lana Del Rey and and Jay-Z. According to director Baz Lurhmann, he was looking to modernize Gatsby to today’s audience. In an interview, Lurhmann says,
While we acknowledge, as Fitzgerald phrased it, ‘the Jazz Age,’ and this is the period represented on screen, we—our audience—are living in the ‘hip-hop age’ and want our viewers to feel the impact of modern-day music the way Fitzgerald did for the readers of his novel at the time of its publication.
Who knows, maybe 100 years from now people will look back on 2013 and call it ‘the hip hop age’, but I personally don’t think that we are in ‘the hip hop age’ in the way that the 1920’s was The Jazz Age. And while I am all for statements on the impact of music on today’s generation, I don’t know if The Great Gatsby is the place to do that. I personally would have liked to see more of the Jazz Age, since that is an era we do not see on a daily basis, or when we turn on the radio.
Also, the narration of the movie comes from Nick Carroway years later in a sanitarium where he is a recovering alcoholic. In my opinion, that is a nice “what-if” situation that certainty fits in with the turn of events from the 1920’s to the 1930’s. But I am not 100% sold on the idea. There also must be a more subtle way to fit in lines of Fitzgerald’s text other than physically writing them out on the screen. I have also heard that there are many subtleties to the book that get lost, or overly exposed in the film. But then again I have not seen the movie, so I don’t feel like I can comment on that element of the film as much.
Yes, The Great Gatsby is known for its elaborately descriptive writing, so it makes sense that an elaborate movie would come from the novel, but I think I am going to stick with my own personal scenes that are now etched in my mind, thank you very much. Each reader has a different idea of what the inner world of a book looks like, which is a great thing! I would hate to see my personal inner of Gatsby wither away to be replaced by hip hop and 3D golden glitz. I can find that elsewhere.
- Gatsby (thethoughtsack.wordpress.com)