Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby has been breathlessly anticipated for the best part of the past couple of years and has made the news in scandalous Gatsbyesque fashion several times before it’s eventual release.
There was speculation over whether Leo would be the gorgeous personality of Gatsby, Mitch Winehouse’s outrage of Beyonce’s rendition of Back to Black featuring Andre 3000 and the questionable choice of an Bollywood God, Amitabh Bachan being the face of the movie in India though his appearance in the film is decidedly small, and Fitzgerald wrote him as decidedly Jewish.
However, scandal, gossip and romance were all things necessary to get everyone into the Gatsby spirit and Luhrmann achieved just the right amount of tainted glamour to make this film a true Hollywood success.
What has got some people talking, both good things and bad things, about this film, is the choice of music.
I happen to think the soundtrack is absolutely perfect. A fusion of hip hop, old age glamour, dulcet tones and heartbreaking emotion is exactly encapsulating of the whole premise of the story whilst firmly rooting Fitzgerald’s contemporary criticism of superficiality, wealth and love in today’s times.
What better represents the American Dream, and indeed the capitalist dream, not only concurrent with the jazz age and Fitzgerald’s disillusionment of the era, but with today’s sentiments too, than hip hop?
All about fast cars, beautiful women and of course, money, hip hop, encapsulates Gatsby’s themes perfectly. Back door dealings, corruption, drugs and politics can be contrasted almost as a reflection with the ‘gonnegtions’ Wolfsheim tries to establish, the drug store businesses that make Jay rich and the implicit bootlegging that runs throughout the whole film. Politicians and movie stars, high society and criminals all intermingle at the parties of Gatsby’s. Not unlike the friendship of today’s golden girl Beyonce, husband Jay Z and the President of the United States
While some argue the choice of music is too modern, Luhrmann manages to do what he did to Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, and make it accessible to an audience today in a way that makes it relatable and reflective. It should also be noted how many textual allusions all the lyrics of the soundtrack contain.
Aside from the hip hop beats that permeate throughout the film, much like the rumours that seem to follow Gatsby, the XX, Florence and the Machine, Sia, and Gotye add some softness to the soundtrack which truly reflects the heartbreaking love Gatsby has for Daisy, and the eventual shattering of the illusion of what Daisy comes to represent.
Lana del Ray’s Young and Beautiful, which is repeated intermittently, as well as the XX, provide the anthem for Gatsby’s downfall and also envelope the ideals of beauty, youth and death that characterised the thinking and feeling of many of the great artists at the time.
If Luhrmann had used solely jazz, this film would have lacked the soul of today in it. It would have taken away the sense of timelessness Fitzgerald himself imposed on the novel and in that sense, Luhrmann should be applauded for capturing the sound of money, as well as the decadence of it, on screen.