Be honest with me. Are you one of those people strutting about town and telling everyone and anyone who will listen that The Great Gatsby was, “like, omg, the best book I read in high school!” Yes? That’s okay. Don’t be embarrassed. That’s kinda the trendy thing to say right now, especially with the highly-anticipated movie coming out this weekend, weekend, weekend. (I wrote it three times, so you can start preparing yourself to see it in 3D.)
Here’s the thing about high school, it was a while ago. So while you may remember l-o-v-i-n-g the book, you probably don’t remember much else about. Well besides the drinking and the partying. Remember how fun it was to talk about getting wasted with your 10th grade English teacher?! (“if only she knew,” you thought to yourself as you feigned ignorance of what it means to be hungover, “that I too spent my weekend going to parties with people I dislike in attempt to get my crush to notice me.”)
In order to make sure that you’re fully prepared to see this movie and talk intelligently about it, I’ve put together a little cheat sheet for you. Just read it real fast, memorize it real good and prepare to sound like you got an A+ on your Great Gatsby reading test.
Let’s start with the main characters:
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire): Nick’s the innocent midwest transplant who comes to NYC with dreams of being the Carrie Bradshaw of Wall Street. Instead of focusing on his career, he gets caught up in his neighbor Jay Gatsby’s quest to re-seduce his wealthy cousin Daisy Buchanan. The story’s told from his perspective — hence why he comes out of it looking so good.
Jay Gatsby/James Gatz (Leonardo DiCaprio): James Gatz grew up super poor and decided that wasn’t really for him. So he changed his names to Jay Gatsby, got a rich old guy to teach him how to act rich, went to war, fell in love with Daisy Buchanan and spent the rest of his life doing whatever it took to win Daisy back. And whatever it took happens to include illegal activity. If this was a Law & Order: SVU episode and not a classic American novel, he’d be sent to Bellevue for observation.
Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan): Daisy’s the super beautiful girl who’s smarter than she looks, but somehow still incredibly shallow. Even though she promised Gatsby she’d wait for him to return from war, she gets impatient and marries Tom Buchanan instead. Classic Daisy. When Gatsby returns to her life, she has an affair with him and then breaks his heart when she decides that Tom is actually the guy for her. It’s as if Rose from Titanic decided to get in the lifeboat after all and leave Jack to drown.
Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton): While we don’t learn a lot about Tom’s background, it’s almost certain that he hazed several pledges while in a college fraternity. He begins cheating on Daisy almost immediately after they marry and he openly has an affair with Myrtle Wilson. While he’s allowed to sex up anyone he wants, he gets weirdly uncomfortable with Daisy doing the deed with Gatsby.
And now let’s discuss the minor characters:
Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher): Myrtle’s fun and free and loose and destined to die. Sorry Myrt!
George Wilson (Jason Clarke): Now here’s a guy who probably has no idea that an undershirt goes under another shirt. He runs a garage in the Valley of Ashes and probably doesn’t watch Downton Abbey.
Meyer Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan): Meyer’s the sketchball who gets Gatsby into the bootlegging business. He’s not to be trusted. Unless you’re into bootlegging, then trust away!
Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki): She’s Daisy’s BFFAEAE. She’s also a lady golfer who embraces the Gatsbyian way of life of doing whatever it takes to succeed. Hence why she’s not super into honesty when it doesn’t benefit her.
Got all that? GREAT! Let’s talk about some symbolism!
The Green Light: Remember that light! It’s end of the end of the Buchanan’s dock and Gatsby watches it like a hawk. If a hawk chose never to go to therapy to deal with his inadequacy issues and instead just stalked the love of his life. It represents the American dream…and how you’ll never reach it, even if it seems to be within your grasp. Yes, that includes kickstarters guys. Sorry, your feature length Sabrina, The Middle-Aged Witch movie is never getting made.
The Doctor T.J Eckleberg Billboard: Located right in the middle of the Valley of Ashes, this fading billboard features a giant pair of eyes. Are they God’s eyes? (I hope not, I’d like to think that our all-knowing-all-powerful being has 20/20 vision) Are they meaningless, much like the lifestyles that the wealthy have? It’s never exactly clear, but it’s certainly some food for thought.
Feeling real smart? Let’s move onto geography then:
There are two eggs in this version of Long Island: East Egg and West Egg. East Egg’s full of old money families like the Buchanans and West Egg’s full of new money bachelors like Nick and Gatsby. They’re all horrible people, but just different kinds of horrible. I think we all know that horrible people come in a variety of flavors.
And that’s pretty much all you need to know before you go to see The Great Gatsby this weekend. You’re welcome in advance for making you sound more much educated than you are in real life.