Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Greatest Gatsby

"You see I think everything's terrible anyhow," she went on in a convinced way.  "Everybody thinks so--the most advanced people.  And I know.  I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything."  Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she laughed with thrilling scorn.  "Sophisticated--God, I'm sophisticated!"
 . . . 
"Look here, old sport," he broke out surprisingly.  "What's your opinion of me anyhow?"
A little overwhelmed I began the generalized evasions which that question deserves.

I love so many things everything about this novel.  For the sake of brevity, I'll focus on one (semi-)timely thing.  The narrator, Nick, is hilarious.  And, I ascribe to the narrator not just what he says to us throughout the novel, but also the things he chooses to narrate about.  The novel spans an entire summer, but he chooses specific episodes to reflect the unfolding story.  These episodes and his voice reveal that the narrator regards the characters and events around him with deep cynicism.

So, when Nick shares Daisy's reflection that she is sophisticated, I read Nick as offering Daisy's reflection ironically.  When Nick describes Gatsby, I see him as attempting to present the innocence of Gatsby's dream as tragically hollow.  Although Nick indicates that, "Reserving judgment is a matter of infinite hope," Nick can't help telling the portions of the story that reflect poorly on the people around him.

In contrast to this Nick, is Tobey Maguire's Nick: young, innocent, naive.  When Daisy tells him that she is sophisticated, he believes her.  When he meets Gatsby, he is impressed with him, his ambition, and his dream.  When he tells Gatsby that "They're a rotten crowd," and that, "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together," he says it as a cheerful happy-go-lucky boy, making an observation intended to please the listener.

I hated Tobey Maguire's Nick.  And, I have to admit, the rotten crowd line is one of my favorite in the novel.  Nick drops the veneer of reserving judgments and opens up, he tells Gatsby what he actually thinks about Daisy and Tom.  And the comment is scathing.  But not Maguire's Nick, who delivers the line as though he doesn't fully appreciate its significance.

I'm being very critical of one aspect of a movie I otherwise enjoyed.  I thought Leonardo DiCaprio nailed Gatsby; he got the perfect combination of ambitious and nervous apprehension.  Daisy, Jordan, Tom, and atmospherics were all perfect.

Fun fact: comparing Luhrman's Gatsby to Coppola's Gatsby is an interesting compare and contrast in interpretation.  I especially enjoyed seeing 1974 Tom Buchanan to 2013 Tom Buchanan.  They're both faithful renditions of Tom, but the cultural currency defining Tom-ness is...different.


Christopher said...


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