The Collective Fog Around The Great Gatsby Thickens

by evanmcmurry

I know it’s Miss The Point Of The Great Gatsby Week in America, but A. O. Scott should at least know better. Here’s him issuing Baz Luhrmann a hall pass:

The best way to enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s big and noisy new version of “The Great Gatsby” — and despite what you may have heard, it is an eminently enjoyable movie — is to put aside whatever literary agenda you are tempted to bring with you. I grant that this is not so easily done. [snip] The book has become, in the 88 years since its publication, a schoolroom staple and a pop-cultural totem. It shapes our increasingly fuzzy image of the jazz age and fuels endless term papers on the American dream and related topics.

[snip] [Luhrmann] sticks close to the details of the story and lifts dialogue and description directly from the novel’s pages. But he has also felt free to make that material his own, bending it according to his artistic sensibility and what he takes to be the mood of the times. The result is less a conventional movie adaptation than a splashy, trashy opera, a wayward, lavishly theatrical celebration of the emotional and material extravagance that Fitzgerald surveyed with fascinated ambivalence.

Balderdash. Gatsby is a sneering, seething critique of the Jazz Age; it’s a couple hundred pages of “careless people” running over poor people with the brand new toys they’d yet to learn how to drive, all filtered through the eyes of a narrator who, much as someone once said about Fitzgerald himself, pressed his face against the store window of the elite.

The “fuzzy image of the jazz age” comes from reductive glosses of the novel—like, say, a film that turns it into a “splashy, trashy opera” or a “wayward, lavishly theatrical celebration.”

NB: Let’s not forget that this was an adaptation whose release date was delayed for five months due to insufficient realism, or that it’s being made entirely by the class the novel savages.

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the movie, but I reserve the right to preemptively hate it.