I’ve been thinking about The Great Gatsby movie a lot lately (due in part to my obsession with the soundtrack) and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I’ll admit that when I saw it for the first time, I felt a little overwhelmed; but that didn’t stop me from seeing it again. Watching the movie for the second time, I realized that what I was actually feeling was an overwhelming sadness. Sadness for Nick, Gatsby, and (a little) for Daisy.
While the rest of New York is indulging in parties and business and secret love affairs, all Gatsby wants (with Nick’s help) is Daisy. Nick is the only one who can help because he has not been compromised by all of the glitz and the glamour – he does not see Gatsby as an outrageous host, but a man working for his love’s attention.
And Gatsby’s only love is Daisy.
Daisy, Daisy, Daisy.
Is it her soft voice? Blonde curls? Girlish preoccupations? The rest of us can see her shallowness, but not Gatsby; Gatsby who has worked for the last five years to become a man worthy of his long-lost love.
But Gatsby isn’t entirely innocent, either. It is his memory of Daisy that has kept him going, but not Daisy herself; he has forgotten that she is human and has flaws. She isn’t the green light that he can see perfectly.
Taking place after the first world war, the country wanted to focus on happiness, disillusioned or not. Most people turned to clubs, parties, and business ventures, while Gatsby and Daisy find it again in each other – at least the hope of it. When they finally meet (in my favorite flowery scene), it is a smiling affair that lasts in the secret rooms of Gatsby’s looming mansion.
So then we must wonder: Is it really love?
To answer this, we have to see beyond everything Baz Luhrmann flashes us with. He gives us a lot to look at – dancers, streamers, fireworks – and listen to – fast cars, loud songs, bedazzled dancers – but what he wants us to search for are the human connections; the ones that are accepting of a bright boy from North Dakota.
This movie made me ask myself – How much is much life dependent upon external sensations? If I had been an acquaintance to Gatsby, would I have been human enough, Nick-enough, to see his pain? Do I know a Gatsby in my own life? Am I a version of him (minus the millions)? Perhaps, if I can take a moment long enough to realize.