The Great Gatsby

Read the book and saw the movie this weekend - I had started the book about a month ago and got maybe a third of the way in, but last night I finished it in one sitting. It's not long, but it's pretty dense in terms of symbolism and themes and I took advantage of SparkNotes to get a better grasp of everything.

The movie's good, if incredibly heavy-handed, which is both a blessing and a curse, often in the same scene. While reading the book, I never quite grasped the connection between Gatsby and Daisy's first kiss and its meaning - that for all intents and purposes, Gatsby was casting God out from his life and replacing Him with Her, and doing so knowingly. The film does this scene with Fitzgerald's words as subtitles and Tobey Maguire's superimposed face narrating the damn thing. I facepalmed at the unsubtlety, but then I got the point, and thought it pretty brilliant and insightful into Gatsby's character... so I can kinda forgive it.

Structurally, the film feels a lot like Moulin Rouge. There's a bit with Leonardo DiCaprio in an officer's uniform looking up at his love that brought to mind the armour he wore in Romeo & Juliet. The soundtrack's a mixed bag, but the stuff that's good is really good. And yet there's something that just feels off about the whole thing. I may need to see it again to fully digest the thing.

Jay-Z has a song on the soundtrack where he raps about what he's aspiring to in the context of the past - being a 21st Century Kennedy. Cool. $100 Bill is a great track. But it's on the soundtrack for a movie in which the main character is consumed by chasing his past, and it's that chase that ultimately brings about his downfall. Is he doing it sincerely, in which case he's kinda missing the point? Is he doing it to emulate Gatsby? We can argue that Kennedy's a better role model for rappers to aspire to than, say, Tony Montana, but it feels like the same mistake. If it's a mistake. Which I'm not sure it is, because I'm still not sure how I feel about Gatsby as a character. There's a lot of misplaced hope, and tragic loss, and bad things done for the most sincere of purposes.

And in the end, the whole thing's just going to be used by people as an excuse to spend tons of cash at Tiffany's and Brooks Brothers because they're aspiring to partake in something so beautiful and so sad that it makes me wish I knew German because they've got to have a word for this sort of thing.


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