While I don’t feel strongly about the film (this is no Moulin Rouge), I do not share the common view that Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby celebrates wealth for its own sake.
When I read the novel in my youth and watched other versions of the film, I lamented the fact that the Jay and Daisy’s great love could not withstand the obstacles Fitzgerald put before them. I wanted them to be together and, despite myself, to enjoy a gilded sort of happily ever after.
The film strikes all of my girlish notions from years ago and replaces them with a steely sense of just how much this film suits the present time — and I’m talking about the increasing division of wealth in this country and a deepening sense of social class more than the contemporary music juxtaposed with some period visuals.
The impossibly lavish party scenes, for example, have an emptiness to them beneath the shimmering surface that is stultifying, and I like to believe this is by design to show the impending decay of all the eye can see.
With Luhrmann’s film, I have a clarity that eluded me before in other versions of the story, and the end to this narrative seems fitting and even kind rather than tragic. The parties cannot go on forever, and when the music and spirits and moonlight madness all wind down, the players find that they really don’t have much to say to one another.
All that yearning is for naught because, in the end, nothing of value is sought.
But the ending is fitting and not in the least sad. Spoiler alert: After all, Jay never has to see, fully, his folly or understand the utter vacuousness of his beloved. He is a twisted man who cannot come to terms with what is right before him, and Daisy has neither the brain power nor the will to do much of anything at all.
Perhaps that is a problem for some viewers who want to be pushed or pulled into caring about these characters, but it’s not a problem for me.
Maybe I am a bit like Daisy in this one way: I went, I watched, I engaged in the moment, then I promptly forgot (mostly) about this film that didn’t seem to have too much to do with me.