Daisy Buchanan is Crazy & Leo is a Dreamboat - In defense of Luhrmann's Gatsby | Tarreyn Land: Daisy Buchanan is Crazy & Leo is a Dreamboat - In defense of Luhrmann's Gatsby

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Daisy Buchanan is Crazy & Leo is a Dreamboat - In defense of Luhrmann's Gatsby

I just got home from seeing The Great Gatsby for the second time.
And I'm here to tell you - I loved it.
Maybe it was my mood, or my unflinching loyalty to the novel (Which I've read 4 times) or to Baz Luhrmann (Genius), or the fact that the tickets only cost $3, but I thought it was grand.

It's unquestionably flawed, for sure, but I think many of it's problems are born through earnest attempts at staying true to the depth and lyricism of the novel. 
For example, Toby McGuire's overly earnest narration from the sanitarium, albeit a somewhat bizarre choice, is used as a vehicle for the audience to hear Carraway's character descriptions and vivid recounting. The even less successful decision to have the words typed across the scene was made to ensure the audience feels the full impact of the perfect closing paragraph. 
I can't fault Bazzy for that too much. 

The party scenes are incredible, as per usual Catherine Martin's art direction is flawless, and the music! Jay-Z, you industrious genius. Scoring the film with modern jams created a feel of modernism which is what the story is inherently about.

While the first 20-30 minutes are a little rushed and disjointed (a problem i have with most Luhrmann projects), it accurately gives you the feel of the mania of the times. 
But all that changes when Gatsby arrives. 

Leonardo. Fucking. DiCaprio.

When I was 10 years old and Titanic was released on video, I was obsessed. 
I would set up the two VHS set and stare up at the screen in wonderment.
It was more than obsession - it was love.
One night, I was so taken with Jack Dawson and his blue-eyed good looks that in a moment of passion I began kissing the TV screen so fervently, that it fell on top of me.
True story. 
Sitting at the theatre, I was overcome with the same tidal wave of adolescent Leo Love - it was physically reverberating
In a performance that I think is the strongest of his career, Leo walks away with the film. His fluidity of emotions is so intense, his desperation so honest, not to mention that boy can fucking ROCK a pink suit. 
And a soaking wet suit.
And a tux.
And a 20s swimsuit.

DiCaprio inherently embodies Gatsby. His charm, his hopefulness, his dedication, his smile - that smile that "concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself." He nails it. 
Even as a hardcore devotee to the book, I think his performance is perfection.  
I mean, Come on. 
It gives me funny feelings.

Which leads us to why Daisy is insane. 

Throughout history, Daisy Fay Buchanan has been not only what in part drives the story, but Gatsby's illusive flaw, both for the character and the story, and this interpretation is no different. 

First off, how does anyone NOT fall in love with Gatsby?
(Especially when it's Leo. Am I right, Ladies?)

She's indecisive, manipulative, and driven by money. Always on display, she acts the part of the lost, misunderstood debutante, clutching every man in her path with no remote thought of consequence. It's clear that she loves Gatsby, but it's not clear if it's only because of how she sees herself through his eyes.
When Nick finally describes her as careless, it's both an understatement and perfect description at the same time. 
As for this most recent version, I feel one of the main reasons she's so flawed is because of just how amazing Leo is. How are you supposed to stand up to that?
I really don't feel Carey Mulligan was the apt choice for the part, but I do feel she holds up better on the second viewing.

Daisy is a tease, and a cruel one at that. Whether she knows it or not, she is filling up time, and our dear, lovely, hopeful Gatsby is the unfortunate consequence. 

Fitzgerald himself blamed the initial lucrative and critical failure of the book on the fact that there were no likable female characters. 

Despite Daisy's defective behavior, the story is still amazing.
And I think Luhrmann's version is, all in all, a success.
A flawed success - just like Gatsby.
It effectively conveys the grandeur of the parties, the madness of the times, the passion of Gatsby, the conflict of Nick, the listlessness of the upper class and the infatuation of the entire story.
You're invested in not only the characters and the story, but the language of the narrative. 
As opposed to simply being a movie based on a book, it's a true adaptation in that you feel that the book is being played out in front of you. 

But seriously Daisy - WTF?


  1. I don't really know what to say about this article. I think your opinion of the Daisy Buchanan character seemed to be based upon the actor portraying Jay Gatsby, namely Leo DiCaprio. Is rejecting Gatsby the same as rejecting the actor who portrays him . . . in your eyes?

  2. Thank you for your comment! So sorry if I was unclear - To clarify:
    I am a fervent fan of the book, so when I refer to Daisy and Gatsby, specifically why Daisy is difficult, I am very much talking about their characters, not the actors. Daisy's rejection of Gatsby is not the same as rejecting Leo, however, because of DiCaprio's seamless performance, and how in sync he was with the character, the lines do become a little blurred.
    Plus it's fun to talk about it from a crush point of view for the sake of the article. I have a crush on both the character of Gatsby, as well as Leo.
    So much love!
    Hope that helps!