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May 11, 2013

Luhrmann brings Gatsby new life

The Daily Star

---- — Sure, you would think that being a college student and having finals rapidly approaching would equate to my growing anticipation for the summer and being done with my first year of college.

Not quite.

No, although I am excited to be able to kick back at the lake and soak up the sun, what I have been most looking forward to is Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel “The Great Gatsby.”

Back in my junior year of high school, my English teacher had us read the book as part of the unit he was teaching on Modernism. It was then that my classmates and I first caught wind of a new interpretation of the book, which was also filmed in 1974 starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

The most recent film features Leonardo DiCaprio as the titular Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy Buchanan, and Tobey Maguire as narrator Nick Carraway.

Long story short, “The Great Gatsby” illustrates the Roaring ‘20s in New York City as a time filled with short hair and dresses, Prohibition, and unimaginable wealth. However, in Long Island, where the story is set, there is the West Egg and East Egg, which differentiates between “new” and “old” money.

Gatsby and Daisy knew each other when they were younger and fell in love, but were unable to be together due to class differences. Therefore Gatsby determined to earn a fortune and be worthy enough of Daisy. Gatsby, who is part of the “new money” crowd in the West Egg, is considered somewhat of an outcast to Daisy’s group in the East Egg, specifically her husband, Tom Buchanan.

The scene is then set for one of literature’s best love triangles. Will Daisy be able to escape her world, filled with money and unhappiness, or will she stay where she is comfortable?

I’ve been a fan of director Baz Luhrmann ever since I saw his 1996 interpretation of “Romeo + Juliet,” also starring DiCaprio as Romeo, and Claire Danes as Juliet. I also loved his work on “Moulin Rouge!,” the musical starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

Something about Luhrmann is so undeniably him; I think it is a combination of the emphasis on music and the beautiful visual effects he uses in all of his films.

Whatever it may be, as soon as I saw the first trailer last May, I knew immediately that it was a Luhrmann film, and that it would be a good one.

And speaking of Luhrmann’s use of music, I cannot begin to explain the excellence of the Great Gatsby soundtrack. Kanye West, Jay-Z and Beyonce, to Florence + The Machine, Lana Del Rey, The XX and Jack White are featured on the album, all contributing some of their best work in a long time.

Beyonce’s song is a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” and features Outkast’s Andre 3000. Although I am a huge fan of Amy and love the original track, Beyonce’s interpretation is very different and works very well for the film, so despite criticism I have heard, I enjoy that it is on the soundtrack.

Florence + The Machine’s song “Green Light” was written specifically for the film, and works perfectly within it. I think I smell an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2014.

All in all, “The Great Gatsby,” whether it is the book, movie or music, is not to be missed. If you have not read the book, I highly recommend doing so before seeing the movie; not that I believe the movie missed much, but the book in and of itself is one of the best I’ve ever read and every one should experience it for themselves.

Maggie McVey, a 2012 graduate of Oneonta High School, is a freshman at the State University College at Plattsburgh. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at