[Director Baz] Luhrmann’s movie, and the vast array of marketting that surrounds it, is phony. But so is Gatsby. Gatsby is tasteless and vulgar and spends too much money. Gatsby is the original icon of hype. Which is why his story remains so relevant. The movie could easily have been set in Silicon Valley today. The illusions that Gatsby and Luhrmann create are lies and ultimately cheap and corrupt, but their spell is nonetheless powerful. The critics are unintentionally paying Luhrmann a compliment, I think; his version is not so much a film about Gatsby as the film Gatsby would make about himself. It’s the most Gatsbyesque Gatsby possible. What better standard is there for adaptation?
Richard Brody differs:
For all of its lurching and gyrating party scenes, for all the inflated pomp of the Gatsby palace and the Buchanan mansion, for all the colorful clothing and elaborate personal styling, Luhrmann takes none of it seriously, and makes none of it look remotely alluring, enticing, fun. His whizzing 3-D cinematography offers lots of motion but no seduction; his parties are turbulent and raucous without being promising, without holding out the allure of magical encounters. …
That notion brings to mind what is perhaps Fitzgerald’s most famous sentence, from the essay “The Crack-Up,” in which, preparing to describe his own breakdown, he adds:
Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation—the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.
The movie conveys the sense of waste but not of what was wasted, of the superfluous but not of excess, and of the phony but not of the gloriously theatre of life. In its reductive way, it not only doesn’t display two opposed ideas; it offers no ideas at all.
Ariane Lange illustrates the “8 Meanest Things 1920s Critics Said About ‘The Great Gatsby'”.
(Image: Lines from Arrested Development mashed up with Gatsby scenes via Book Riot)