The official trailer for The Great Gatsby has come out. Tell us what you think!
A little while back, when Nick and I taped our episode of Don’t F with the Original dedicated to The Great Gatsby (1974), I praised director Jack Clayton for his harsh depiction of a hedonistic lifestyle but criticized him for missing the larger point made in the classic novel: the idea that this decadence in the nineteen-twenties stemmed from the existential isolation inherent to the way we communicate. I wish I’d ranted as well about the adverts calling F. Scott Fitzgerald’s yarn a romance for the ages, but I only found out the next day while rummaging the Web for a screenshot. That’s what happens when you do your homework after the recording.
The promotional campaign for Clayton’s The Great Gatsby is merely a product of its time, of course. In the midst of a major social revolution, Americans in the early seventies felt oppressed by their own way of life, so it comes as little surprise that they would interpret Gatsby and Daisy as victims of capitalist opulence rather than pathetic embodiments of post World War I nihilism. By the same token, it stands to reason that the trailers for Baz Luhrmann’s new 3D adaptation would speak to the cultural excesses of the new millennium.
I mean, what else could one conclude of a three-minute montage that manages to reveal nothing about the advertised flick other than it’s got lavish sets and expensive stars? In fairness, we do get a sense of the period and of the two leads’ unbridled passion for each other, which, to some extent, already betrays the source material. If memory serves, the book’s narrator, Nick Caraway, never could figure out how his cousin truly felt about Gatsby. That was sort of the point.
Incidentally, Leonardo DiCaprio is playing Gatsby a lot warmer than I would have expected. This makes for an interesting contrast with Robert Redford’s take forty years ago. Carey Mulligan, on the other hand, portrays Daisy exactly as written, which is to say as a vapid shell of a woman. Now, I’ve already talked at length about the casting of a proven, charismatic star like Tobey Maguire as the self-effacing Nick, but Luhrmann seems to be addressing the problem by freeing the narrative from his point of view so that the character can appear a smaller person by sole virtue of having a smaller role.
One scene in particular jarred me because I can’t imagine his being there to witness it: the one wherein our titular anti-hero tries to impress Daisy by throwing clothes in her face. I realise I’m letting my love of Fitzgerald’s prose taint my judgment, but I always thought Nick’s limited perspective to be a quintessential part of The Great Gatsby. Oh, well. I suppose different media call for different rules, and if this version of Gatsby wants to seduce his old flame by making her do his laundry, so be it.
Otherwise, the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s reinterpretation of The Great Gatsby largely consists of extravagant, mildly surreal shots of New York punctuated by meaningless bits of dialogue: “She has to tell him”; “I just heard the most shocking thing”; “It all makes sense!” The movie looks gorgeous; that’s for sure. However, I can’t help the feeling that the filmmakers, or perhaps the marketers, are glorifying the very way of life Fitzgerald meant to condemn. It’s style over substance, in other words, but then that’s what happens when you do your homework after the shoot.