Some Gatsby Afterthoughts

Special thank yous to Adrienne for planning (and silverware), to Rachel for the best potluck contribution, to Ashton for bringing the DVD, and to Tedward for valiantly taking home all leftover food so no one else had to carry it.

Confession: I did not expect to like the DiCaprio/Mulligan version at all.  But I did.  A lot.  It’s  gorgeous, of course.  And both Gatsby and Daisy were significantly more human in this version–reinforced even in simple ways like the fact that Nick repeatedly called Gatsby “Jay,” which is not true of the novel or Redford/Farrow movie.  As a result, Leo-Gatsby seemed more vulnerable, his carefully constructed world on a much shakier foundation.  I had loved Redford-Gatsby, but he is a cardboard man, and Leo-Gatsby showed the work it took to be Gatsby.  And Mulligan-Daisy was both much more likeable and more awful, since her guilt for Myrtle’s death is more profound if she isn’t simply a twit.

Still struggling with how I feel about the Nick-in-a-sanitorium invention.  And with the combination of explicit information about the 20s for an ignorant American viewing public being carefully woven into the film, only to be juxtaposed with radically anachronistic elements (not the music– I liked that much more than I anticipated).

Both Toms stink.  Bruce Dern-Tom is not nearly enough of a “brute,” to use Daisy’s word.  And Joel Edgerton-Tom is not believable as old money– would Tom Buchanan ever wear dirty polo clothes to a dinner with guests?  No way.  Very interesting difference in George Wilsons, one of whom is so beaten down and lost and the other of whom is a man ready to kill.

It has already been well established that I can find a phallic symbol anywhere.  But please, people: Nick and Gatsby on the porch with a huge white column between them (Redford version)??  The sharing of one cigarette??  Etc. etc.  Don’t even get me started psychoanalyzing Gatsby’s wombish swimming pools, in which he meets his death.

Lastly (maybe): why did Leo-Gatsby say “old sport” to rhyme with “Colbert Report”?  That was awkward.

2 thoughts on “Some Gatsby Afterthoughts

  1. BOOOO!

    Just kidding, but not really. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the fest so my boyfriend and I rented the movie from Redbox and I ruined it for him by complaining the entire time. I’d prefer not to re-live it, but I was so bothered, even by the littlest things. I felt it was overwhelmingly untrue to the novel, and my least favorite portrayal was maybe of the white curtains wildly dancing about the room.

    The movie just felt so.. awkward. Embarrassing to watch. I’ll also never understand the impression people get that Nick comes to the East all wide-eyed and innocent. He’s nearly 30 and a veteran of WWI – to me, he sounds at least a little cynical from the get-go.

    I did like the music, though.

  2. Since you broached the topic of confession, I suppose I have a couple to admit as well: this was my first DiCaprio movie. (I know! Not Inception, not Titanic… so uncultured.) Also, I had never read/watched/experienced Gatsby before this class.

    Now that’s off my chest, I can say that I adored this film fest! Certainly, it was a little overwhelming to be so immersed in Gatsby for five hours, but it was five overwhelming hours of delight and catharsis. (I spent the weekend in recovery from the emotional whiplash of watching Gatsby die twice. It was totally worth it.) Both films were stunning. I could watch them again right now. (Any takers?)

    I was surprised to realize that I marginally prefer the 1974 film. I agree that the characters were more human and appreciable in the 2013 version. However, I feel that the 1974 characters were truer to the novel, which appeals to me. Gatsby as played by the Brad-Pitt-like Robert Redford is confident, untouchable, and has such a visage of control and experience that his ultimate demise is utterly shocking. I suppose Leo-Gatsby has similar traits, but he is vulnerable, which is unlike the novel. His demise is less shocking. Besides, as you pointed out, he can’t pronounce the “t” in “sport.” Awkward indeed. (Haha!) I have a similar opinion about Daisy.

    As for Nick, Maquire-Nick was much too interfering. That feels weird to say, especially because Nick’s passivity is something that bothers me in the novel. However, his passivity is an integral part of the novel’s commentary on wealth and corruption. Waterston-Nick was accurately and frustratingly passive. The weak Wilson also seems truer, pitiful but truer. The subdued, notably devious Jordan of 1974 is preferable for me. There’s no choosing from the Toms, though. I completely agree, they stink.

    All of the original Gatsby characters have quirks, critical character flaws that I feel enhance the work’s intricacy. I mainly like the 1974 version because I favor accuracy when it comes to portraying good storylines. (Hmm… in the pattern of reader-response criticism, I’m thinking my identity theme tends towards that of the literary purist. I appreciate New Criticism and historically accurate films.) Still, I was quite impressed by my first exposure to DiCaprio, and I’m hungry for more! I’ll be at the next film fest!

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