I was seated in a nice quiet dark movie theatre waiting for the main feature as the screen filled with cacophonous gunshots, car crashes, screeching people, horrible grotesque creatures, all trailers as they are called now–when I was a mere lassie, we called them coming attractions because, well, that’s what they are. The film may trail at the end of a reel, but the pictures themselves are of movies about to be released. Doesn’t matter, what did was what one of the trailers showcased-a new version of The Great Gatsby. I believe there have been two already–maybe more, one starring my mother’s matinee idol, Alan Ladd, the other starring my generation’s dreamboat, Robert Redford. Each film presents NY in their own way, the latter tries to show a bit grittier world. What I witnessed in the 3 minute promo was complete fantasy. Opulent, over the top, ritzy, decadent behavior with sets that cost more than any one at the time could have possibly afforded to build. With a computer generated city skyline, showgirls, debauchery, and a florid Leonardo Di Caprio as the iconic Gatsby, I recoiled in my seat as if slapped.
I remember this book. I remember it’s tone, flavor, and yes, it takes place among the Long Island rich in the 20s, and yes there were parties and excesses, but they were within realism, within a world we could possibly have lived, as Fitzgerald may have actually done. It didn’t resemble the ridiculous cartoonish look the glimpses given us promises the film to be. I was severely disappointed. I would have loved to see a new version of the classic we all read in high school and have no idea why. I’d been thrilled to experience a little Roaring Twenties, accent on the little, since what was considered roaring back then has no resemblance to the carnival played out on the screen I just witnessed. I have a strong suspicion that ‘the light at the end of the pier’ may consists of giant green spots flashing to blind audience members, to match the aggressive style the rest of the film appears to have.
Now, I was only given these few short moments. The editors may have jam-packed every single important scene into those seconds, but I doubt it. What I witnessed was a Gatsby on steroids, and speed. When I glimpsed the director’s name, as the trailer ended, all became clear. Babs or Bash or Babes Lohrman or something along those lines created the thing–the same person who brought us a witty, opulent, romanticized look at Moulin Rogue. I enjoyed the film immensely. It was a caricature, an overblown exaggeration of what was a large men’s club. The excesses within that film made perfect sense. To give Gatsby that same kind of treatment, is to turn it into a burlesque, a parody. As I said to my friend before the main feature began, “Some people shouldn’t be allowed to touch literature.” I hope with all my heart that I have been hasty, judgmental, unfair based on a tiny snippet of film blaring itself at me, and that unlike the abominable recent rendition of Pride And Prejudice that had Donald Sutherland unshaven among pigs or cows, or some filthy farm animals as the father of the girl brood, Gatsby turns out to be a restrained true adaptation, and not the special effects and costume epic it looks to be.