“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is arguably one of the most important works of American literature. The novel has been taught in high schools so students can experience the wonder of Fitzgerald’s writing. Baz Luhrmann has now expertly translated this literary marvel onto the silver screen. The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, features narration and dialogue straight from the book (before seeing the movie I reread the novel). Luhrmann has created a parallel world that is accessible to today’s youth.
“The Great Gatsby” is set in the electrifying 1920s, a time when, according to narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), “the buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper.” The teens in our generation can appreciate the domineering “you only live once” attitude throughout the movie. The film follows Carraway as he describes one life-changing summer in New York City. While there, he meets the mysterious Jay Gatsby and follows interactions among his cousin Daisy (dazzlingly played by Carey Mulligan) and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Without giving away much of the movie, Tom and Daisy’s relationship is strained, and with the help of Nick and Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker, Daisy is reunited with Gatsby, whom she met five years earlier.
The drama that unfolds is portrayed beautifully by DiCaprio, who, despite his past history with the award, deserves the best actor Oscar for this role. Mulligan and Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jordan Baker, are also perfect for their roles.
Luhrmann’s directing style is evident throughout the film. As a huge fan of “Moulin Rouge” (2001), I was excited to see what he would do with this film. His lavish set designs and bright colors make every scene in “The Great Gatsby” a work of art. Luhrmann’s other signature in his films is contemporary music, which has been cause for dispute. Usually, when a film is set in the Jazz Age, people expect to hear jazz music. However, Luhrmann teamed up with rapper Jay-Z to collaborate on the music for this film. As a result, the soundtrack features artists such as Beyoncé, Lana Del Ray and will.i.am. Although the music is unexpected and unprecedented, it fits the movie more than I imagined it would.
The coolest part about this film is the fact that our generation can relate to it. Upon entering the theater, I saw so many teenagers and college students, including numerous people from my school. For this, I thank the teachers that have sparked interest in a remake of a classic piece of literature. I wouldn’t have been half as interested in this film if not for the dynamic teaching of Karen Fina from Williamsville North High School. I think Luhrmann should thank these teachers as well. Without them, the buzz of “Gatsby” would not reach nearly as many people.
This movie is truly a piece of art. Many versions of “The Great Gatsby” have tried and failed to capture a generation. Luhrmann’s interpretation of this classic American story makes “The Great Gatsby” relatable. The green light at the edge of the dock has been grasped, and Luhrmann has achieved his goal of creating an unforgettable masterpiece.
Emily DeRoo is a senior at Williamsville North High School.