deep dives

Did You Snicker or Applaud at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Introduction in The Great Gatsby?

Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Great Gatsby.’

We already mentioned several of The Great Gatsby’s main talking points in a piece earlier today, but there’s one thing we had to save for later … one element of the movie that truly earned its own separate article. It’s a scene that’s so over-the-top that it might have hit the moon, and when this magical moment happened onscreen, you had no choice but to laugh, cry, or applaud. (Or maybe you did all three at once, in which case you should have seen your face!) We are talking, of course, about Leonardo DiCaprio’s introduction as Gatsby. Boy, are we.

If you don’t exactly recall the moment (impossible!), let me jog your memory with a recap (perhaps I simply wanted to do this anyway). For most of the first act, after Nick Carraway (a deeply stoned Tobey Maguire) has moved to West Egg, he catches mere glimpses of his neighbor, the elusive Wilson from Home Improvement Jay Gatsby. It isn’t until Nick finally attends one of Gatsby’s gala parties that he finally meets the man himself, an occasion that arrives after minutes’ worth of frenzied speculation from gossip-y party guests: “I hear Gatsby was a war profiteer!” “I’m told Gatsby is a serial modelizer.” “I’m positively certain that Jay Gatsby was once the little boy on Growing Pains!”

And then, as Nick heads out to the terrace, we hear Leo’s bourbon-soaked purr (it’s clear that his voice, and not Daisy’s, is the one that’s full of money in this movie) as he ninja-shadows his distracted new friend, waiting for the right moment to get out in front and reveal himself entirely. Naturally, because this is a Baz Luhrmann film, that reveal arrives just as “Rhapsody in Blue” hits its apex on the soundtrack and orgiastic fireworks go off in the 3-D distance. And then, as the camera pushes in, we finally get a solid medium shot of the positively orange-painted Leonardo DiCaprio, a giant grin playing on his mouth as the heavens rain down enough sparks to power a century’s worth of RuPaul’s Drag Race finale coronations. He then drawls to Nick, and I may be paraphrasing, “Old sport, I am fucking FAMOUS.”

It’s a movie-star glamour shot the likes of which we never see anymore, and it is epic. It is so, so, so gigantic and nakedly earnest and silver-screen spectacular that I simply can’t wait for it to open Leonardo DiCaprio’s eventual lifetime achievement montage, because you know that Aged Leo is going to cringe and shrink into himself when he sees it, and that’s going to be hilarious. (And obviously they’re going to bookend the montage with his “King of the World” scene from Titanic, and poor, embarassed Aged Leo is just going to die.)

It’s also kind of a litmus test for the whole movie: Do you reject the moment out of hand because it might as well take place on Pluto, for all it has to do with real life or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel? (If so, maybe there’s a screening next door of The Place Beyond the Pines that you could still catch.) Or do you shake your head (appreciatively!) at all of the 3-D chutzpah of the thing and decide then and there to succumb to Baz’s Big Vision? Or. Or! Do you instead begin redrawing the scene in your mind, searching for ways to make it even more wildly over-the-top? Maybe Iron Man should fly by in the background! Maybe each piece of falling glitter should have Lady Gaga singing “Born This Way” superimposed on top of it! Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio should start singing new lyrics to “Rhapsody in Blue” that he just made up on the spot! Maybe animated birds should land on each of his shoulders and sing along, too!

Roll your eyes if you must, but in this era of carefully stage-managed comic-book movies and defiantly gritty indies, it’s rare that we get something as gleefully, gayfully, out-there as this moment, and that deserves some celebration. That scene is something else, isn’t it? Let’s honor it by festooning the frame with some Blingees. Cheers, old sport.

Leo’s Insane Introduction in Gatsby