He watches the winking green light. He is blissfully unaware that it is a bilious green, the green of envy, an old money Cyclops that never sleeps. This light will never be extinguished, never be defeated, invulnerable to challenge and change. Behind the light, curled in their shallow magnificence lurk those, “careless people who smash up thing and creatures” ready to be unleashed once again upon exam text youth.
This time around those diamond skinned horrors leap and vault across New York like art deco Ubermensch. They are propelled by opulence, and arrogance, their own supremeconfidence forged in dollar, dollar bills y’all. Daisy and Tom Buchanan shine like platinum and drip with bombast. They are Baz Luhrmann’s sparkling playthings; Daisy wears a laser cut blond bob, Tom’s voice explodes like a WW1 Howitzer.
Daisy’s cousin and Tom’s college acquaintance Nick Carraway moves into a small house in Long Island. Nick is wide eyed, bushy tailed, a Harold Lloyd double minus the glasses, clinging onto morality rather than skyscrapers. In Luhrmann’s kaleidoscopic zoom fest, Nick is writing the story with a pen styled like a silver gothic spaceship. It’s a cheap trick. Nick marvels at Gatsby, swoons for Gatsby the transparent millionaire who lives next door to him.
Gatsby’s mansion throbs day and night with bad house music, the kind played at Mardi Gras and Kylie Minogue concerts. Gatsby is an out of body spectator, passive and aloof as the great and the good, the bad and the worse wreck his anachronistic shindig.
Champagne and flappers slide and drizzle down his walls like an early 1990s Pushca warehouse party. And all the while Gatsby gazes past the orgy directly at the green light, pausing briefly to seduce his neighbour.
In “Dune” David Lynch folded space, In “The Great Gatsby” Luhrmann’s camera travels faster than that, careening up and down buildings, peeking through windows, swirlinlike the wit around the Algonquin Round Table. New York can’t catch its breath; it hyperventilates in the sonic boom of CGI. That’s the point; Gotham distends its jaws and consumes those dreamers who dare to climb too far from the cradle.
Gatsby would be God, a deity obsessed with bending time to his will, bringing nature to its knees. He would move heaven and earth for his memories. Film is the perfect medium for his folly. Only Leonardo DiCaprio can unravel human perfection in such spectacular fashion. Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire witness his destruction but it’s not enough.
“The Great Gatsby” is fragile, flimsy, stronger when it pauses and weaker when it sprints. Luhrmann doesn’t have enough depth to make Fitzgerald’s characters truly shallow. The vagaries of the current economic climate are scratched at, the irony of Jay-Z writing the soundtrack ignored. The idea of a film of “The Great Gatsby” is much like the idea of the green light visible from Daisy’s dock, beautifully perfect when unobtainable. The reality of a film of “The Great Gatsby” once more dashes our hopes and dreams.