Dear Baz Luhrmann,
Do you know how excited I was to see your depiction, your stunning vision of The Great Gatsby? I was real excited. I read the book in high-school and dissected and diluted the book until the pages shred and disintegrated from over-use in college. I know Gatsby like I know my way to get home from nearly anywhere. So when I heard you (the director of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!) were directing the 6th film adaptation of Gatsby, I had great hopes. Only you would be capable of pulling off the deceptively gaudy age of the 20’s, its tragic glitz and its boastful roar. Only, you failed. You failed more or less miserably.
Let’s focus on the good first, shall we? You were ultimately loyal to the book, and not many directors and writers can say that about their films based off literary texts. Your Gatsby was just as earnest, vapid, and enigmatic as the book portrayed him. He was America’s fool, its byproduct of greed and pre-depression consumerism. Also, Leonardo DiCaprio was a good call; he looked grand in all those nice three-piece suits. I read a review frowning upon Daisy’s “dazed and hazed” behavior in the movie, but Carey Mulligan did just the trick. Daisy is in fact, void of true emotion; she’s a sucker for social status, an It Girl who chooses wealth over (maybe?) love..if Daisy Buchanan is even capable of such a thing. The rest of the cast was great. Isla Fisher was a little bit too skinny to play curvaceous (I believe “faintly stout and thickset” is how Nick Carraway describes her in the novel)Myrtle and Tobey McGuire is just so damn goofy, I couldn’t take him seriously as an outsider. Baz, the party scenes were great. They made me want to become an alcoholic and permanently adhere glitter onto my body and in my hair. The parties were exactly how I envisioned them. Gatsby’s over-the-top estate when compared to the Buchanan’s posh East Egg mansion was spot-on. Oh, and the costumes were delicious. I wanted every single item of clothing and accessory, especially Daisy’s $200,000 Tiffany’s diamond headband. Props to Jay-Z for the soundtrack, too. Very dynamite.
Now, let’s talk about the bad. Baz, did you have to shove every single metaphor down our throats? I was seriously choking after an hour into the movie. How many times, exactly, did you have to remind us that the damn green light symbolized Gatsby’s longing for Daisy, his desire to own a woman,a prized commodity that would finally complete his masterfully crafted life? Did Leo have to to reach out to the green light with his perfectly manicured fingertips again and again? I know you’re a man of emphasis, but this was just borderline insulting. And okay. What was this whole fictitious scenario with Nick and his self-prescribed time in a sanatorium? You literally filmed Nick typing away the story as he narrated it to a psychiatrist AND you so graciously included visual letters that danced and drifted into snowflakes. It was like an extravagant Powerpoint. Did you absolutely need the narration visually typed out for us to get the point? That you wanted to solidify the marriage between novel and aesthetic? Well, it was cheesy. And yes, I get that everything cool is now in 3-D, BUT I SERIOUSLY HATE WHEN PEOPLE FILM IN 3-D. Why can’t a film just stand on its own? Why do we have to feel like we’re on some Disneyland simulated ride? Oh wait. It’s so people can pay $5 extra for 3-D glasses and watch crazy shit pop out at them! How enhancing.
I think you have the talent and innovation to have created a better film. I imagine it was tricky, trying to re-create a story that is so well-known. How exactly, do you make a film surprising when everyone knows what happens? The answer was not 3-D, nor was it dishing out the explanation of metaphors as though we were grabbing lunch at a school cafeteria en masse. You had the actors, the budget, and the music. I just don’t think you thought outside the grid, Old Sport.
My final grade for you? C-. And I think I’m being quite nice.