‘The Great Gatsby,’ In Time for Another Crash, and Another Kind of Mogul

I will admit to a serious soft spot for Baz Luhrmann’s pop-music drenched spectacles—I wrote last year that I think there’s something marvelous about the fact that we got Moulin Rouge and the iPod in the same year, the movie anticipating how much we’d come to love accentuating and heightening our lives by adding carefully curated soundtracks to them. I also quite liked OutKast’s underrated Idlewild, a visually gorgeous marriage of jazz age and hip-hop, and I’m happy to revisit that union, even in a movie that puts black music at the service of white characters in the same way white audiences once consumed jazz.

That said, I’ve always been left, perhaps heretically, a trifle cold by The Great Gatsby, and I’m curious as to how it’ll play when the movie is released in December.

The movie’s class politics are probably best described as universally disgusted. Gatsby makes the error of assuming that wealth can purchase him respect and love, falling into gauche error as a result, while the old monied Buchanans are revealed to be repulsive, crude people. But it’s a lot easier to shudder away from money as a source of happiness in favor of a more refined sensibility in a boom era than it is in a recession. This is neither a revenge fantasy nor a pure escape. But certainly, Leonardo DiCaprio’s exactly the right person to play Gatsby, even leaving aside that he was Luhrmann’s muse before he was Martin Scorsese’s. He’s achieved a kind of profound remoteness. And these days, the idea that someone could lever themselves from one class to another by sheer force of will is a more remote dream than ever.