I’m not a fan of the book either, though I have read it twice. I read it the first time after I saw the book on the table of my senior in the hostel. It was a part of his syllabus. I finished it in one day. I found Jay Gatsby’s love for Daisy fascinating, and his longing at the green light on Daisy’s balcony. Of course, I found the ending sad.
The second time I read it when the book was slotted second in the list of 100 great books of 20th Century (I was on an unrealistic schedule to read all the 100 books, one after another, which of course did not happen. I couldn’t even finish the first book in the list, ‘Ulysses’.). Anyways, this time round, I found the book good, but not necessarily interesting. This time round, I, however, liked how the book ended, with both Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s lovers ending up dead. A poetic justice, if ever there was one. Now, they can console each other.
I also saw the Robert Redford-Mia Farrow version of the film, with Redford looking dapper in his cap and Farrow, alluring as ever. I found Redford in the film desperate enough to look like Gatsby.
Now, coming back to Baz Luhrmann spectacle, I don’t know, it is spectacular enough, it’s in 3D, it’s grandiose and Carey Mulligar looks million bucks, but do I like the film? I don’t know.
Talking about spectacle, the film almost looks like a brainless Bollywood blockbuster. Luhrmann re-imagination of the Jazz Age comes via Bollywood over-the-top visuals. Luhrmann is a fan of Bollywood, of course. Remember the ‘chamma chamma’ song for a fleeting second in ‘Moulin Rouge!’ And, this one has Amitabh Bachchan!
To begin with, the visuals are eye-popping. Even Nick’s modest flat is filled with exotic flowers. And, ah, those parties that Gatsby hosts! You can almost single-handedly blame him for the coming of the Great Depression. Such excess!
My biggest problem was, however, the verbal assaults, with Tobey Maguire’s Nick incessantly talking in the background (that too in a peculiar accent), even when we can very well see the subject of his description on screen. It’s like storytelling for dummies. This goes to such an extent that when there is no visual to show for the talk that Nick is giving, we are show the words he speaks floating on the screen, along with snowflakes. Whatever!
Then, there is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby mouthing ‘Old Sport’, at every possible opportunity he gets, sometimes just for the heck of it. We know, the film explains where he learnt the words and why he uses them. It gives him this ‘old money’ affectation. But the way DiCaprio uses the words, it’s a bit too much.
In the book, despite Gatsby being a villain, we learn to appreciate him, following Nick’s justifications; it’s a tragic love story after all. But, amidst Luhrmann’s spectacles, that love story is somewhat lost. If there is a love story in this film, it actually Nick’s unrequited love for Gatsby. The way he worships Gatsby and goes nuts after he is dead, it’s nothing short of love.