Why I Won’t Be Watching Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby

I’m so fucking bored of bad book-to-film adaptations.

This is why I won’t be watching the latest adaptation of Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It is impossible to translate this book to the screen and yet a minimum of four auteurs of film have tried to plaster the false decadence and insufferable opulence of Jay Gatsby and his solipsism in front of the eager eyes of the American audience. This book is the essence of 1920s America: all gloat, no shame; all jazz, no shame. This movie is the absolute display of 2010s America: all trend, no depth; all dollar, no shame.

Because when you enter the dollar into the discussions of greatness, the discussion is tainted. There is no way to create greatness when pressured by money. Think Avatar and how it was just a $3 trillion remake of Fern Gully, but without the wildly underrated Tone-Loc. The movie execs have a tried and true hit on their hands with Gatsby: Leonardo DiCaprio, arguably the most famous and sought-after actor in the world; Baz Luhrmann, arguably the most garish director in the world, often choosing glitz and flash over substance. From the trailer, it looks like Luhrmann has struck again. But it’s all fucking wrong.

Leave this book alone; stop pandering to the lowest common denominator of an audience. This movie isn’t going to inspire anyone. The very nature of this film – hip-hop-influenced soundtrack, 3D technology is sincerely a blow and weakens this novel’s power to tell a god damn story. 

Yes, you’ve read this book in high school. If you’re really fucking lazy you watched Robert Redford try his best at Gatsby in the 1974 film. But reading a book after seeing a movie is not a metric for anything; it doesn’t prove you’re well-read. It proves that you’re a trendy consumer and not a conscientious citizen of literature. Yes, I know that sentence was an awful attempt at grandeur and pedantics. But to understand Gatsby, you really need to read it and not for school credit or to say you’ve read it. You have to understand from where Fitzgerald was coming from. From the crowd he was wont to hang with in New York and in Paris. You need to think. And in two or so hours you can’t think, not even for a second, without missing the action. What is missing is the subtlety that has pervaded the media. Everything is big and maximalist all the time Case in point here: the unfettered deflation that you feel when you start to realize the fatal flaws of these characters. The climax of this movie starts before the first scene. All you really see, and need to see, are machinations and character archetype tributes. Where’s the lesson in that?

But this movie has made so much money that even the man, Fitzgerald, himself would hardly have believed all the scotch it could have bought him, if he were alive. Money is the necessariest evil. It grinds the gears of the authors, directors, actors, playwrights, critics, journalists, musicians of yore and of today. But damn it all to hell if we keep getting lazy adaptations of books that should stay on the shelf.

We’re due for a live-action Cowboy Bebop and Akira adaptation in the States sometimes soon. These films are without a workable script and are in production purgatory. No doubt the studios, even the indies, want to cast the hell out of these movies. They made so much money in Japan. Keanu Reeves. That Asshole Without A Shirt. But they can’t get financed because no one wants to take a chance on another cartoon-to-screen adaptation (ehem, The Last Airbender, ehem) and thank the hell for that. Let’s keep the art alive and in it’s place.

I understand the concept of artistic license and of the creative capacity and limitation of different forms of media. I’m not saying no book should be adapted to the screen; Lord of the Rings was a delight; Game of Thrones is worth all the accolades thrown at it. But these are highly filmable books. Let’s just not be wanton with our decisions based on the paycheck.

Yes, I am an idealist and a purist and it’s getting me nowhere. There’s no room for a free thinker in the society of massive, ugly lists and “accomplishments.” We exist for each other’s bidding and Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is certainly there for someone to enjoy.

So fucking enjoy it.


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