Partying Like Jay Gatsby

As many of you already know, The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels. So much so that I have devoted a few posts to it. I was first introduced to the novel in college and have read it several times since. I went to the theater on the opening night of the 2013 film adaption and fell in love all over again. What’s not to love about Gatsby? The roaring 20s, richly extravagant parties, passionate dreams. In all of Gatsby’s dreaming, there’s a naïveté to him that I find endearing. The man from the wrong side of the tracks chasing after the woman that he’s convinced is the love of his life, throwing parties that exist only in your dreams. I would have given anything to go to one of his parties. And now I have.

About a month ago, my friend and I bought tickets to The Great Gatsby Party at NYC’s Capitale. Outfit preparations went underway immediately after. When the day finally rolled around, I couldn’t have believed that it was here. And. The party was amazing.

When you first walked in, you were greeted by two women on stilts in gorgeous silver gowns standing in front of a champagne tower. The men were in tuxes, bowties and tails. The women in beautiful headpieces and pearls. As a champagne girl, naturally I gravitated towards the champagne bar, but after trying the Gatsby punch, I found myself quickly gravitating towards that. There was a big band that played a mixture of modern and 1920s style music, performers that gracefully hung from the ceiling, and professional dancers that made me want to learn some of their 20s steps.

It was an evening of opulence and grandeur, of sparkles and black-tie. It was everything that you would expect from a Gatsby party to be. We laughed, danced, drank and left feathers in our wake. Shouldn’t we all party like Jay Gatsby?

 

IMG_2471
The Great Gatsby Party 2015 @ Capitale, NYC

The Great Gatsby novel Revisited

Originally, I had planned on rereading the novel before seeing the movie, but when that didn’t happen (I was in the midst of a stack of books) I picked it up a few days after.  It only took me forty-eight hours to get through it, and I suspect that it would have taken half the time had I started it over the weekend, where I could have read uninterrupted.  That being said, the novel is quite short – under two hundred pages – and I think that everyone should pick it up whether they have never read it before or to reread it and be re-introduced into Fitzgerald’s world that is Gatsby.  Something to keep in mind, because The Great Gatsby is so short, much of the story happens just under the surface – it’s there, you just have to pluck it out.  After all, it takes place (and was written) in the 1920s, where there were speakeasies due to Prohibition, burlesque dancers, women who cut their hair shorter and dressed in sequins.  It was a loud time, but also a time where things were not talked about.  Most of Gatsby is told through the narrative voice of Nick with not a ton of dialogue, and most of the dialogue is between Nick and Gatsby.  Daisy and Gatsby barely speak to each other, yet they’re supposed to be in love.  They do, however, meet off the pages as we find out when Nick inquires with Gatsby about why his parties had suddenly stopped.  Hence, to read Gatsby, you need to read between the lines.

As I was rereading, I found myself pulling out quotes.  This is a normal occurrence of mine because I love quotes so much (I have a dictionary of quotations).  Interestingly, the quotes ended up all being from the same general area towards the end of the novel.  I particularly like this one:

“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.  It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.”

I really feel like this quote encompasses everything that is Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship, or lack thereof.  From the moment that he met her, through the five years when they had had no contact, the Daisy in Gatsby’s mind grew to the point where, had she chosen to leave Tom and be with him, she never would have satisfied “the colossal vitality of his illusion,” and therefore Gatsby would never have been happy.  It really had gone “beyond everything.”  As much as Gatsby wanted Daisy, as much as he invented this life for her, it was much more than that.  He didn’t know who he was, and his crisis of identity started long before he met Daisy, even long before he stopped being James Gatz and became Jay Gatsby.  And I think this is the real key to understanding Gatsby.  All his life, he wanted to be someone that he wasn’t, have the life that he didn’t have, be surrounded by high society – people that he had no business hanging around.  He didn’t want to be the poor boy from the Midwest that no one knew; he wanted to be someone that everyone knew.  In a way he achieved this, but it would never be enough, just as Daisy would never be enough for him either.  She was what made him keep going, but it was the dream of her, not the Daisy in reality.  Nothing is ever quite the same as it appears in a dream, or as your mind turns it into, and Gatsby was learning that.

“With every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.”

The afternoon that they had spent in the city with Tom, Nick and Jordan, when Gatsby was trying to get Daisy to say that she never loved Tom, that was really the beginning of the end for Gatsby, where “the dead dream fought on.”  He became desperate to put the pieces of his dream back together, but it was too late; his dream was shattered.  And that really is the beauty of Fitzgerald’s work – the tragedy that is Jay Gatsby.  The prose lingers in your thoughts as you realize the magnitude of power that this little story possesses, and it stays with you for a while.  I had forgotten how powerful his writing was until last week.  And that’s why I think that everyone should read (reread) this, because it’s worth it. 

“As I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.  He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly grasp it.  He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”

Luhrmann’s Gatsby

Last Friday, Gatsby opened to mixed reviews, and I was there, 3-D glasses in hand, standing on an enormous line.  It was a good thing that I had purchased my tickets in advance, because when I got to the movie theater, I saw that the show-time that I had selected was the only one that was sold out.  Let me just say that I’ve never seen a movie on opening night before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew it would be crowded, but I did not know that it would be insane.  Yes, I knew there was Gatsby-fever (after all, I had it for the past three years), but it was unlike anything I’d seen before.  The line went pretty quickly once it started moving, but it felt like a mad-dash to find a good seat; hoards of people clumped together and coats were strewn about, appearing out of nowhere as the temperature had been near eighty all day.  Thankfully, they opened the balcony level, and I sprinted up the stairs to the perfect seats.

The previews felt like they would go on forever, but finally, the lights dimmed.  I put on my 3-D glasses and settled in.  Why Gatsby in 3-D, you ask?  Because it was the only version playing at that theater.  Two and a half hours later, I emerged into the night in desperate need of a drink; there was so much alcohol being passed around throughout the film that it made me want one.  I ended up having a few martinis, then headed home to Billy, who had not accompanied me on my Gatsby adventure (girls’ night out!) but he will in a few weeks when I drag him to see it (yes I am going again).  In the meantime, we’re both going to read Fitzgerald’s masterpiece…I have already finished it, so I will be passing it along to Billy this weekend.

Clearly, I loved the movie, otherwise I would not be planning to go again, nor would I be planning on purchasing it when it comes out.  Going in, I was a little nervous for several reasons.  One, of course being that, well, it was a Baz Luhrmann creation, and as you already know, he is pretty over-the-top in all of his films (think Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge, etc).  I decided to do a little google-ing on him a while back and found out that before he started directing films, he did operas.  I went to see Puccini’s Turandot at the Met once.  It was around three and a half hours long, and I remember being fascinated with the costumes and stage designs, because they were so elaborate (explains Luhrmann’s penchant for the dramatics).  I liked it a lot and resigned myself to go to more operas, but sadly, I have not been back since.  Surprisingly, I didn’t really find the movie to be over the top, with the exception of a blow-up giraffe (did they have such a thing in the 20s?).  There were scenes that were very extravagant – for example, Gatsby’s parties, Nick’s night in town with Tom (they call NYC going to town) – but there is extravagance in the book, it was the 1920s after all, the decade to indulge.  Gatsby’s parties were lavish, end of discussion; he wanted to show off everything that he had worked for; it was all for Daisy.  Of course, the parties stopped after she attended one and did not care for it.  As for Nick’s night on the town with Tom, well, it wasn’t as extravagant as portrayed in the film version, but they did drink a lot.

Another reason why I was nervous going in, was because Jay-Z had done the soundtrack.  The New York Times published an interview with Luhrmann the week before Gatsby was released, and in it he explains his decision for this, saying that hip-hop is to us what jazz was to the 20s.  Luhrmann was trying to make it fit with todays’ world, and I understand that, but I know I’m not alone when I say that it was perhaps not the best choice on his part.  Gatsby, by all intensive purposes, is a period film, but the soundtrack doesn’t quite fit; it’s too modern.  I’m sure there could have been a way to appeal to this generation without it, after all, Gatsby is read is schools for the most part – so there’s an audience there – and for the people who haven’t read it, the movie was promoted an awful lot and DiCaprio has a huge fan base.  I’m sure it still would still have been great even if the soundtrack was a little softer.

Speaking of Leonardo DiCaprio, he did a fabulous job as Gatsby, but I never had any doubt about it.  He was able to bring a little life into the character that is Jay Gatsby, but also change with him as well.  In the novel, Gatsby goes through a ton of emotions, and as he does this, his character kind of changes as well.  We see Gatsby as: optimistic, timid, scared, happy, in-love, disappointed and broken hearted.  All of that encompasses who Jay Gatsby is, and DiCaprio does a great job portraying it.  Equally well, I though, was Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway.  I’m not familiar with Mulligan’s work, but I felt that her Daisy was perfect.  She brought to life the carefree and often careless attitude that was the character of Daisy.  She loved Gatsby, but she loved her life more.  I adore Tobey as Nick, I feel like he was very good at telling the story, because, after all, that is what Nick does in the novel, he narrates.  I loved the scenes with Gatsby and Nick, I feel like since DiCaprio and Tobey are such great friends in real life, they have amazing chemistry together and that shows up on the film.  The scenes with Gatsby and Daisy were good also; you saw the love that they had for each other, but you also saw the distance that was between them.

All in all, Gatsby was amazing and a MUST SEE for everyone.  I leave you with a quote from the novel.

“As I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.  He had come a long was to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.  He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald