May 12, 2013

Review #25: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, plus Movie Review

This may very well be one of the hardest reviews I have ever written.  The Great Gatsby is such a larger-than-life classic to me.  It was the first book (and only book) I read in high school that I actually enjoyed.  This is my second reading and I have found so much more in it than I did 15 years ago.  (Not that I like admitting I was 17 fifteen years ago.  *shudder*)

Becky of One Literature Nut, Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books and I have been reading Gatsby for the past month.  Becky has been asking us thoughtful questions every couple of chapters so check out my responses here and here.  I missed the one for Chapters 5 & 6 so I am including those here along with Chapters 7- 9.  (Warning: If you've never read the book/seen any of the films, skip the questions for 7-9.)

I also am including my thoughts and opinions on the Baz Luhrmann film, which I just went to see today (Sunday).  Post Spoiler: I loved it.


1. I'm reminded of a psychology lesson I once learned, that states the person with the least interest in the relationship, controls it.  Is that person Daisy?  Is she so "secure" with Tom that Gatsby could be no more than a momentary diversion from her unhappiness?
I actually know this psychology theory, too, and I absolutely believe it for any relationship in which one person is significantly more invested in the relationship than the other person.  Daisy is certainly the one with all the power.  Gatsby has built his life around finding and impressing Daisy.  

I don't think Daisy is "secure" in her relationship with Tom.  She knows he is a philanderer.  I think she did have residual feelings for Gatsby and seeing him again re-awakened a wonderful time in her past when she felt secure and truly adored.  I think she is torn between the two men and doesn't fully understand what her feelings are right now.

2. Did you have any lines that jumped out at you in these chapters?  
"If it wasn't for the mist we could see your home across the bay," said Gatsby. "You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock." Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.

3. How has your opinion of Gatsby and Daisy changed now that they have finally met  again?

I think at this point Fitzgerald is showing us how much Daisy really means to Gatsby.  He's nervous and fidgety and wants everything to be absolutely perfect.  He is seeing the world through her eyes now.  Daisy feels like a girl who is overcome in a wave of nostalgia and longing for a time and man who makes her feel as wonderful as Tom should be making her feel.

1.  What do you think happened to Daisy after the "accident" with Myrtle?  What conversation do you think happened between she and Tom?

Hmmm...good question.  I think she probably freaked out.  I think that Gatsby had to drive the rest of the way home.  I can't imagine Daisy being nonchalant about it, even if it was Tom's mistress.

2. Was the laser-point focus of Gatsby his own sick fault, or did he ever have a real chance with Daisy?  Could they have ever had a life?

I think Gatsby lived in a fantasy world for five years and even after Daisy returns, though Daisy does lead him on.  Daisy may have loved Gatsby at one point, but she loved the IDEA of him more than the man himself.  Daisy was never going to leave Tom.  The whole reason she married Tom was because she thought Gatsby wasn't good enough for her because he was penniless.  Even Daisy's voice "drips with money."  Not to mention, she and Tom have a daughter together.  I think Gatsby simply represented a longing in Daisy to be the center of a man's attention, which is certainly not something she received from her husband.

3. What is it about the past that we somehow can never escape it or relive it?  Or can we actually relive parts of it, and so that gives us some sick hope?

Actually I feel like Gatsby kind of did relive the past, but he didn't escape it.  You see, Gatsby was under the impression that he was going to get back the past of him and Daisy in love and turn it into happily ever after.  However, when he and Daisy began seeing each other again, what repeated was Daisy leaving him once again for Tom.

4. What most stood out to you in these final chapters?

What stood out the most to me was when Daisy didn't even bother to show up to Gatsby's funeral or send a note or flower or anything.  She was exactly the same as everyone else who used Gatsby for his money.  Only Daisy used him for attention.


I was nervous about seeing this new version, as I had heard conflicting reviews and the critics weren't impressed calling it "more frosting than cake', but when I heard Fitzgerald's own granddaughter congratulated the director, Baz Luhrmann on the film, saying someone finally made the film as her grandfather would have wanted it to be, I knew I had to give it a chance. 

I wasn't disappointed.  I thought Baz Luhrmann's film represented the story very well.  Some people can't get past the theatrics used to modernize the story and appeal to younger crowds but I thought Luhrmann captured the subtleties and nuances of the story much more so than any of the previous film versions, and I've seen all of them.  

I went into it knowing a lot of people said "Don't get your expectations too high" and "it's more frosting than cake" but I did not think that at all.  Luhrmann did a brilliant job of showing Nick's inner monologue without it looking forced and without just reading to us or giving us long monologues.  While I don't really care for Leonardo Di Caprio in anything else, he seemed to be born to play Jay Gatsby.  He had everything about him down pat- his mannerisms, his stride, his smirk, the conflicting rollercoasters of emotions on his face, it was very impressive, in my opinion.  I remember watching Robert Redford as Gatsby and thinking how flat he made the character.  And I like Robert Redford.  Look at all the emotion in his face in this scene as he comes in to meet Daisy for the first time.  He has left the house to enter the rain so she doesn't know he was sitting around waiting for her arrival.  His face mostly conveys anxiety, but if you really look at it, it also shows anticipation, restlessness, and excitement.  And I mean that's one still of the movie.

There was a lot of pomp and flare but I didn't feel it was out of place.  That was what Gatsby's world was like.  It was rich decadence and over-the-top craziness and the film captured that.  I watched it in 3D and, while it seems too forced at first, the 3D really enhanced Gatsby's party, the underground club, and the car accident.  

I confess I did not understand the soundtrack.  I love, love, love Lena Del Ray's "Young and Beautiful" song, but all the songs from Jay-Z and Beyonce were completely out of place and there was next to no attempt to try to even make it go.  It was just like "Here are some beats for the kids who otherwise wouldn't see the film".  That's honestly how it felt.  It made no sense and was completely disruptive to the ambiance of the film.

I really recommend seeing this film.   It is the closest adaptation to the book yet and it is also a lot of fun.  I was very surprised and impressed.  

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  1. I recently read this one for the classics club, I enjoyed the read and I'm looking forward to the movie :)

  2. I read The Great Gatsby this year(and just gave it the full review treatment).

    For me, the book is definitely better, I prefer that the characters are more elusive. But I do admire Bazz Luhrmann's ambition, in that it's completely different to all the previous adaptations, visually and in terms of music. I agree LDR's "Young and Beautiful" was the best song.

    Good observation about "person with the least interest in the relationship, controls it." Hadn't thought of that. Good point also about Daisy used him for attention, while the others used Gatsby for his money.


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