I watched The Great Gatsby on 3D but did not enjoy the experience as much I enjoyed The Hobbit. The movie works as an entertainment experience but there were times when I was pulling off my glasses to ward off a headache-like sensation. I think director Baz Luhrmann has focussed on too much bling. If anything, I came out of the movie wanting to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel from which the film is pieced.
The din of life in America in the 1920s is so fascinating - the stock markets, fast life, new money, easy virtues and hard partying! Luhrmann has captivated every aspect of that life beyond imagination. And in the mid of that mayhem runs the story of three people, of a love story and a friendship that leaves you thinking, thinking...
There is Jay Gatsby played by my favourite Leonardo DiCaprio. Running away from home at a young age to escape poverty, he works his way to fulfilling his one and only ambition – acquiring wealth of mammoth proportions. How he gets there is learning the tricks of the trade, winning the trust of an alcoholic tycoon in the hope of winning some trust in his will. He is disappointed when that does not happen but by then he had earned far more in terms of experience. He learns manipulation and running a black market veiled to the world as a mysterious Richie rich for whom lavish, wild parties are a lifestyle. But what would bring Gatsby’s downfall is not his wealth or lifestyle; it would be his obsession for Daisy.
Gatsby is neighbour to Daisy’s cousin Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire). A Yale graduate and young Wall Streeter, Carraway is one of the persons Gatsby takes a liking to, for more than one reason. Through Carraway, Gatsby is sort of re-united with his love after five years and it is also only to Carraway that Gatsby opens his heart and the story of his life.
Brought up in an affluent family, Daisy Buchanan ((Carey Mulligan) is very glamorous and very married when she meets Gatsby after five years. They met years back when Gatsby was enrolled in the army but after the war he sent her a letter saying he could not return just yet as he had no money. Daisy then accepted the proposal of a philandering, wealthy Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). When she meets Gatsby after five years one rainy evening arranged by Carraway at the behest of Gatsby, she thinks she finds love again. But at the end she chooses Tom over Gatsby saying “I did love you once but I also love Tom”. It is an explosive meeting among Tom, Gatsby, Carraway and a friend in a scene when Gatsby nearly punches Tom. For Carraway, it was a revelation of Gatsby’s persona. He thought he saw “an act of murder.” For the last time, ironically, Daisy drives back with Gatsby. She is on the wheels of Gatsby’s yellow big car and accidentally bumps off a mistress of Tom when crossing the valley of ashes, an industrial dumping ground and Tom’s haunts to serve his philandering lifestyle.
No one knows that Daisy was on the wheels except for Carraway but Tom manipulates the husband of his deceased mistress that the driver of the yellow car that killed his wife was none other than Gatsby. One evening as an eternally optimistic Gatsby was waiting to hear from Daisy, the ring of the telephone makes him leap up from his pool but before he even dashes towards it; he is fatally shot on the back. The call was, however, not from Daisy. Gatsby dies a lonely death, not a single person turned up for his funeral as the media laps up the story of rich, evil murderer. Carraway, his only friend and the person sandwiched in between this whole drama, makes futile calls to Daisy who is preparing to leave town and start a new life with her family.
The film’s narrator is Carraway. As a depressed and disillusioned alcoholic, he is staying in a sanatorium for treatment of his alcoholism where he talks about a man named Gatsby. When he struggles to articulate his thoughts, his doctor asks him to write it down. The result is The Great Gatsby.
For all his negativities, Carraway describes Gatsby as the only ‘hopeful’ person he has met in his life. He considered him his friend too and knew far more truths than anyone. I wonder who is the lesser evil – Gatsby a malicious businessman with an obsession for Daisy; Tom, rich pedigree with a trophy wife yet base; Daisy, a socialite conforming to societal norms yet open to flings.
Luhrmann’s film has been called an ode to the art of excess but it still does not leave out the rich nuances of human character. Entertainment must have all of that!