"Will you still love me, when I'm no longer young or beautiful" has been playing on a loop in my head over the last 24 hours. The song, sung by the irreverent Lana del Rey, features on the achingly on-trend soundtrack of The Great Gatsby, and essentially provides the theme tune for the entire film. A lot of people have a problem with the likes of such contemporary heavyweights (Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Florence & The Machine, et al) providing the accompaniment for a film set nearly a century ago. But this is a film by Baz Luhrman. The man who set Romeo & Juliet in a Latino suburb of Miami. Who had a turn-of-the-century prostitute singing Marilyn's Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend whilst gyrating on a swing. His whole style is about mixing the old with the new; breathing new life into familiar narratives. In this way, Gatsby has two feet firmly planted nearly a century apart: it captures in appearance and essence the spirit of the 'roaring 20s', whilst emphasising the fact that this is a 21st century film through the soundtrack and cinematography (most noticeably the now-seemingly customary release of films in 3D).
In terms of whether the film stays true to F Scott Fitzgerald's venerated novel, I have something to confess: I've never read the book. Boo, Hiss, I know. It's on my to-do list. From what reviews I've read, the page-to-screen adaptation is pretty faithful, as far as plot lines go. Character-wise, people have problems. The choice of Carey Mulligan to play Daisy was criticised, claiming she was not as pretty as readers had imagined. DiCaprio's performance was "as deep as spilt champagne", according to one critic, "forgettable" by another. Certainly, Gatsby is no Blood Diamond, Revolutionary Road, or other DiCaprio films that required a high degree of 'serious acting'. This is not some kind of gritty drama. Gatsby, like the 20s itself, was all glitz and glamour; a world of appearance and illusion, of deception and duplicity. It wasn't serious because it refused to be so. It was a time of rebellious freedom, a decade that rejected the disillusionment of the post-War hangover, and the austerity of pre-War social customs, to create a dreamlike bubble of denial. Daisy is the epitome of the shallow woman: vacuous and self-centred, incapable of taking responsibility for her actions, a coward to the extreme. Mulligan's watery, wide-eyed beauty is certainly easy on the eye, but you are left questioning what on earth Gatsby saw in her. Perhaps we live in a different age. Perhaps strength and independence are now more celebrated qualities for women compared with those of the 20s. For me, it wasn't the casting of Carey Mulligan as Daisy that was the problem. Nor the choice of Toby Macguire as the narrator Nick Carraway - an actor who divides opinion, to say the least. I felt DiCaprio was all wrong. He is just too good an actor. It was like you could see him struggling to play what is, essentially, the attitude of a love-sick adolescent in the puffed-up body of a corporate pretender. He's also too old. Gone is the sparkle of youth, the un-lined face, the slim build of man who has just popped out of his twenties. As an older actor, the one thing he does nail is the confidence and self-assurity of Gatsby. What Nick Carraway describes as that "extraordinary gift for hope" - that everything will be, has to be, alright in the end.
Everyone wishes they knew a Noah in The Notebook. A man who loves you so much that he'd build your dream house for you. A man you can respect. Gatsby essentially does the same, yet we feel only pity and contempt towards his pathetic attempts to woo another man's wilted flower through his parties at his grand house situated just across the bay from hers. Why is that? Is it because we feel he's being whipped by this superficial sissy? Is it all just a bit, well, sad? Perhaps the difference between these two romances is that we all know a Gatsby-type. [Usually] young lads who develop acute tunnel-vision for a nice-but-not-interested girl, and subsequently devote every waking hour to her comfort and happiness. Certainly, this seems to be something of a rite of passage for men - but to see it happening to a man in his 30s is not cute, it's tragic (and not in a Shakespearean way).
So the question still stands: "Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?" Will you still love Gatsby when the music is dated, and the scenes look tacky? Probably not. But fuck, it sure looks good now.