Gatsby? What Gatsby?

 

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him.”

The Great Gatsby comes out this Friday.  I already bought my ticket, and I am ridiculously excited. I hope it’s brilliant. I hope it’s stunning. I hope it captures the decadence and intensity of the novel in a way no other version has before. And I wonder what people are going to think of it.

I always felt like The Great Gatsby fell into the same trap as classic literature like Romeo & Juliet and Wuthering Heights – tragedies that we turn into love stories. They’re about two people in love, yes, but it’s not exactly about the love. It’s more about the circumstances brought about by that love, and how it ultimately destroys everything. The Great Gatsby isn’t a happy story. It isn’t romantic, or at least not nearly as romantic as we like to think it is.

The Great Gatsby is what we’d like to imagine romance is – a man becoming a millionaire to win back the woman he lost. She is untouchable and irresistible, he is desperate and passionate. It’s all wildly romantic until you stop and peel away the layers of lies and poetic language to see the situation for what it is. Tragic, unfair, sad, empty. But it’s Fitzgerald, and that means that even though it might be sad, it’s still lyrically beautiful. I love his writing because he makes tragedy into romance, and life can’t do that. We like to pretend it does. People go on about how there’s “beauty in a breakdown”, and musicians sing about broken hearts in a pretty way, but none of it’s true. It’s dangerous to romanticize tragedy. It tricks people into thinking that it’s okay to just let themselves be broken and sad and stay that way, because it’s “artistic”. Because it’s beautiful. When honestly, the reality of it never is.

I love The Great Gatsby. I love the way Fitzgerald writes, I love the characters because they’re all impossible to like – at best Nick Carraway is the only one who leaves me with a vague feeling of decency, and that’s just because we’re meant to identify with him.

So I wonder what people will think of the movie. It will be beautiful, absolutely. Just like the book. But what else will we take away from it? What will we think of it on screen almost 100 years after Fitzgerald wrote it on paper?

I’m curious, and I’m excited. 

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