Wanna-be high-brow media critics across the world wide web are lining up to put their stamp of disapproval on Luhrmann’s Gatsby adaptation. It has officially become the “cool” thing to do. But they’re being too harsh.
Allow me to start with this: it is almost impossible for a film like The Great Gatsby to live up to its literary counterpart. Impossible. Not that there has never been a successful film adaptation of any book ever, just that it couldn’t be this one. If you’re like me, you read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novella at a pivotal point in your life (somewhere between 15 and 25, maybe?) and, in doing so, you run the risk of succumbing to nostalgia.
No fantastical cinematic achievement can live up to the emotion we may have felt at glimpsing into the tragic lives of these kindred spirits at a time when the hormones in ourselves were raging out of control. For me, at least, the idealism, the gluttony, the phoniness, and the heartache all found good company among the inner turmoil I was experiencing for myself as an oppressed, middle-class teenager. (Sigh. Such hard times, they were.)
Here is what some people are saying:
- “[Luhrmann’s movies] revel in surface, spectacle and sensory overload. They’re audaciously, passionately artificial and at the same time unabashedly romantic — post-modern pop medleys aimed at the heart, not the brain.” – Tom Charity, CNN.com
- “The movie feels bloated, with a few too many scenes of speeding cars careening through the streets and pointless musical segues meant to reflect the carefree attitude of the time.” Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
- “His colors are as bright as those in a detergent commercial; his musical choices as intrusive as the exit cues on an awards show. The camera ducks and swerves like O.J. Simpson on his way to a car rental, and the cast all share a slightly vibratory, methamphetamine sheen.” – Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
You get the idea.
It appears that the main problem these critics, and many, many others, have with the film is everything that makes it perfect for its medium. The book is bound to be more introspective and intellectual by the sheer nature of its form. A movie made in 2013 cannot be blamed for using those tools at its disposal to make it as visually stimulating as possible. Gatsby definitely becomes a spectacle, with swinging camera shots, dazzling colors, sensational parties, and fantastic wardrobes on beautiful people all shot in 3D with an electrically-charged soundtrack to enhance it. But instead of hating it for all that it is not, we should celebrate Gatsby it for all that it is.
This is not to say the The Great Gatsby is without flaws. But I forgive the movie these errors because of its loyalty to the original story and its beautiful delivery. You should too. Because, if at times the glitz and glamour all seem a little self-indulgent and ultimately empty, well, now you know how Gatsby must have felt.