Which Gatsby’s Greater?
I’m listening to The Great Gatsby soundtrack as I write this, wishing I could be watching the movie a second time through instead of singing along with Lana Del Rey. I saw it over the weekend and still can’t get Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical interpretation of Jay Gatsby’s decadent world out of my head. I’ll confess that 70% of me wasn’t anticipating to love or even like it as much as I did. Partly because I tend to be a bit protective over original versions and classic novels that get adapted into films, and partly because of all the canonical books I read as an English Lit major in college, The Great Gatsby was so distinctly my least favorite. I couldn’t wait to get to the last page so I never had to read about that stupid green light EVER. AGAIN. Several of my professors shared the sentiment and class after class, Fitzgerald’s “magnum opus” was the butt of every nerdy literary joke.
A few minutes into the movie and I knew I needed to run home after and re-read the book. I didn’t want to exit the magical world the movie had propelled me into. I wondered, is the movie by far better than the novel? Did I really dislike The Great Gatsby so much all those years ago? Or did I simply absorb the critical opinions of all my teachers in school? I knew I wasn’t the only one who came to the movie with some reservations. Some were expecting it to be a “disaster” and critics are saying it’s way too much. It’s getting flack for being too exuberant and not refined enough to honor Fitzgerald’s “precisely tuned text.” This is exactly the kind of totally snobby, annoying thing I might have been saying in my head, but guys–I have to tell you–all these critics are just so wrong, and so am I. It will take all of five minutes into the film to realize that it isn’t doing a disservice to the original work at all. It’s resuscitating its life. In fact, the movie re-introduces Gatsby to a whole new generation that might never have the book cross their radar in the same way. It gives it an excitement not many are associating with F. Scott Fitzgerald since… the 1900s. It melds the heart of the classic with amazingly modern touches–like the soundtrack I’m listening to now, which features a number of old songs that have been repurposed and covered with new flare to fit the film. The movie is a lot like that: a marriage of the best of both worlds. In my humble opinion, of course.
Okay, I know I’m verging on fangirling right now, but Baz Luhrmann (the director) said at the premier that a decade ago when he revisited the book, he had a revelation. “It was us, where we are now, this great mirror to reflect back on us,” he said. I know just what he means because I felt the same ten years ago exactly, as I sat in my first college course holding this book and analyzing its message. Here we are a decade later and it’s even more relevant, reflecting the same cautionary tale as it always has. History repeats itself because we have yet to learn from it, but maybe with this movie out, Fitzgerald newbies will consider the world and their perceptions in a fresh way. Maybe the movie will actually bring people to the book. The director noted that that’s exactly what is happening and in the last week the novel has sold more copies than in the author’s lifetime. That kind of news makes my lit geek day and fills my book nerd heart with joy. I’ve also seen it firsthand. The friend I saw the movie with NEVER reads, HATES books (what a weirdo, I know) and has not once considered The Great Gatsby, but she’s coming over tomorrow to borrow my copy of the book. That’s one for Team Bibliophile!
The book she’ll be getting won’t look like the shiny posters for the film.
It’ll look a little more traditional. Something like this:
But it will still tell the same story and ignite the imagination, just like the movie did. Who knows–she may like it even more.
I want to know what you all think. Are you going to see The Great Gatsby? Have you already read it in high school or college? What did you think of it? And what great literary masterpiece do you want to see on the big screen next?
Thanks for reading, lovelies! Lisi will be back next week with her usual Blah-g.