Gatsby and Snow Days

Austin Hill

It’s the middle of winter and UConn hits you with that, “no classes due to inclement weather” text.  Hallelujah! What could be better than this?  No class and really no need to get up for a bit.

It’s a college snow day!  

Staring at the pile of books resting on my desk, I scanned the covers.  Maybe deep in this stack there would be something I would find amusing; maybe there was something that could lift my spirits on this snow day.  About a third of the way down the stack my eyes grew wider and my heart sank a bit, today’s reading: The Great Gatsby.  

Did I want to read it again though?  I had read it plenty of times, but I really had never seen any of the movies.  Today that would change, it was the perfect day to watch the film, and to share some criticism of Baz Luhrmann’s, The Great Gatsby.  

Scenery

Nickhouse.jpg

In the beginning, I thought that the scenery was fairly well depicted, Nick’s house is in West Egg neighboring Gatsby’s, but it doesn’t appear to be nearly as bad as Nick recalls in the text.  The modern-day ‘eyesore’ that Nick claims to be his home is lavish, elegant, and fairly nice.

Luhrmann’s representation of the lavish lifestyle of the 1920s was striking, and incredibly bold.  He had me a bit concerned at first as our narrator’s house was not what it was said to be; however, as Nick’s house was well exceeding the novel’s description, the parties were even more extreme.

Luhrmann absolutely killed the parties.  There was dancing, drinking, smoking, and more excitement than I could imagine packed into the set of a Gatsby party.  The roaring 1920s full of boom and boldness were shaping up to all the hype, and I hadn’t even taken in the music of the film.   

Prohibition and Music

JayZ Lana

Jay-Z, a major Black artist of our time is blaring over the stereo as Gatsby cruises in his yellow car.  Gatsby being a dominant force in the bootlegging world is enough of a spectacle, why Jay-Z though? Luhrmann’s combination takes a very skilled Black artist who would not have air time because he is racially prohibited, and Gatsby who is everything relating to the word prohibited.  An odd combination nonetheless, but it certainly is one that works.

Similarly enough, the broken shell of Daisy is captured so tastefully in Lana Del Ray’s hit song, “Young and Beautiful.” There really became two ways that I thought about this either working or not working.  

The first was that knowing that Daisy is leaving in Gatsby’s car with him before striking Myrtle Wilson, I think Daisy’s love is professed enough to the viewer.  How can I say she doesn’t love him if she was about to run off with him forever? It appears to me because Daisy is running off like this she knows what she wants.

However, I come back to the point in the film where Luhrmann’s footage of a sad Daisy is heightened by the beautiful vocals of Lana Del Rey.  Maybe what the lyrics were saying is that in the era of Prohibition, Daisy herself feels prohibited by society’s need to tell her who to love.  Although she attempts to run off with Gatsby, maybe she doesn’t know what she wants.

Overall Luhrmann really did capture to me what the 1920s era was.  At times there were a few things that he could have changed, but I’ll leave that for you to judge!

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