Jay Gatsby: I knew it was a great mistake for a man like me to fall in love... ~from The Great Gatsby (2013)Baz Luhrmann's 2013 production of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is like a cake with too much frosting or a wedding gown with too much tulle. It is overdone, and the rap music is absurdly out of place. However, the performances are moving and the interpretation of the story is hauntingly poignant. I found Carey Mulligan's Daisy Buchanan more likable than in other productions, less cold and more emotive, with the charm and grace one expects of a Kentucky Belle. Her large cerulean eyes register every flicker of the Golden Girl's tragedy and joy. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby with suave uneasiness, like the Pauper disguised as the Prince, fearful that at any moment he may be unmasked. Perhaps a reason he does not win Daisy is that he is trying too hard to fit into her world instead of being himself. The entire romance is based upon a lie, along with being adulterous. But even in her marriage, Daisy is part of her whoring, hard-drinking husband's vision of the perfect domestic scenario with the perfect wife. She is seen as a sort of Madonna, to be placed on a pedestal, rather than a loved and cherished helpmate. Thus Daisy is a tool for the fulfillment of the dreams of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, rather than being loved for her true self.
The basic story is an age-old fable about the curse of riches. Not only does the rich man find it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God but he finds that happiness on earth is also unattainable. In the meantime Nick, Daisy's middle class cousin, finds himself so seduced by the fairy glamor of the unreal world of the super rich that he forgets his own birthday. He comes to genuinely respect Gatsby when he discovers his true identity and finds out how hard he had worked to make his way to the top, the very truth which Gatsby was trying to hide. In the mind of Daisy's husband Tom, Jay's ultimate sin is not the adultery with Daisy but the fact that Jay does not have an illustrious background. Jay has dared to enter the ranks of of the elite which to Tom is the ultimate arrogance for which Jay must be destroyed.
The 1920's marked the beginning of modern times, as the old world came to a thundering cataclysmic finale in 1918 at the end of World War One. Daisy and Jay's love is marked by a nostalgia for the old refined ways of innocent youth in an innocent America, or so it was perceived by those who came of age during the War. Through their love they hope to capture what has past, but as the novel makes clear, it is already too far behind them.