With so much of the spotlight going to Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” you might not catch the many nuances of Carey Mulligan’s Daisy. But all you have to do is zoom in on the ‘shirt scene’ to see that she’s as distinct from previous versions as East (Egg) is from West. The setup: Gatsby is showing Daisy around his palatial Long Island crib for the first time. When he gets to his ballroom-size closet, he shows off a pricey collection of imported shirts by tossing them skyward one by one, creating a shower of colorful fabric befitting an Old Navy commercial.
Daisy is overwhelmed. “They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobs — at least, that’s how F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it, and Mia Farrow took him so literally in the 1974 adaptation that her earnest delivery of the line caused moviegoers to howl with laughter. Mulligan’s Daisy, on the other hand, never comes close to a sob. She’s weepy but in command, and she uses the line’s silliness to deflect (unconvincingly, but still) Gatsby’s curiosity about why she’s crying. This is the moment when Daisy first realizes she could have had it all: obscene wealth, epic love, a straight man who embraces pastels. Mulligan shows us a woman who’s truly capable of pushing his buttons.
Janice Page can be reached at email@example.com.