"I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life."
I'd read The Great Gatsby two or three times before I read it this time round, and I always left it with a vague sense of admiration but only a hazy idea of what had actually happened in it. I've never actively hated it like I have, say, The Catcher in the Rye (DAMMIT, Holden) but I've never felt much of anything towards it either.
But then. I saw the film, and I liked it so much that it inspired me to read the book again, and lo and behold, was that... Me remembering concrete events? And those concrete events being improved by the GORGEOUS writing (because Fitzgerald writes gorgeously, I don't think that's what makes me not-remember Gatsby)? Amazing! I think that really, my having no prior claim over the book (in terms of wanting to freaking marry it, like most of the film's harshest critics) was a real advantage in watching the movie because I didn't have all these ideas about exactly how everything should be and I could enjoy it for what it was.
Here's why I really liked the movie- reading The Great Gatsby before, I think that what has happened to me is that I read it, take in the language (the gorgeous language, I'll say it again!) and then leave the book with only the vaguest idea of what actually happened. This is the only way I can explain having read the same book more than once and never remembering anything about anything, and that fact has made me completely ambivalent towards the story in the past. What the film has done has given me actual, visual groundwork that I can base my reading upon and actually remember the stuff that happens, and that is reason enough for me to like the film.
There are other reasons: Leonardo Dicaprio is a really really good Gatsby (I haven't seen the Robert Redford version but I would imagine that he is an EXCELLENT Gatsby, but that's another matter), I think the sets and the decadence and all of that stuff was done really well and Baz Luhrmannly (which, coming from me is a compliment because I really like Baz Luhrmann) and I just generally liked putting it into my eyes and would definitely watch it again. Plus, there's that whole thing where it made me understand and, more importantly, remember the book better, and that's worth its weight in film reel, trust me.
I'm not going to go through the whole story because I'm preeeetty much assuming we all have some idea of what it's all about at this point, but there are a few things in it that are things that, for me, stop it from being the ultimate book of all books that it's often lauded as being. They are these:
- I don't care for any of the characters- And I don't mean that I hate them all, but more that I can barely drum up a single emotion for any of them, and I think we all know that indifference is worse than hate. I don't know what it is, but they're all so... I don't know, distant? that I find it really hard to care about any of them in any genuine way. And I know that's not everything, but when I'm reading? It's pretty much one of the main things I want.
- Daisy- I feel like Daisy carries a lot of the blame for the things that happen (oooh, cryptic) in the story, and I don't think that's fair at all. I mean, she's clearly a terrible person (they're all kind of terrible people, in their own ways) but that doesn't mean that she's wrong for having been in love with her husband, and for being kind of... overwhelmed with the way Gatsby acts towards her. Because, um, having a dude pine after you for five years, knowingly building a house across from where you live and generally tailoring his life so that it'll be perfect for the moment that you come back into it? I don't really see that as romantic, I kind of see STALKER written in bright flashing lights. And then demanding that she say she has always loved him and no one else? I'm sorry Jay, but Daisy's right- that is asking too much. WAY too much.
Ugh, Gatsby. Seriously. But: as I have said THE GORGEOUS WRITING, and there were so many points where I was completely familiar with the things the characters were thinking or feeling and I'm all about the universal feelings and thoughts and the general describing of the human condition in interesting and true ways and this does that a lot. It's never going to be my favourite book, but at least I feel like this time, thanks to a little help from the film, I'm going to remember more about it, and remember that actually, I do like it. I just don't really feel things about it. But maybe that's ok.