As Nick approaches the house, he sees Tom comforting Daisy at a table. Tom is telling her that she has nothing to worry about, that he can make some calls, and that they will go away for a little bit until the scandal has blown over. Later, Nick stands contemplatively beside a tree near his house in West Egg. A car approaches the house. When Nick walks over to the yellow car in the driveway, he finds Gatsby cleaning the blood off the front grill. The windshield is smashed and Nick wants to tell Gatsby that he saw Tom comforting Daisy, but he can only say, “You know Jay, with everything that’s happened, you ought to go away tonight. They’ll trace your car.” Gatsby laughs off the suggestion, insisting that he can’t leave, and that Daisy promised him she would call in the morning, and that they would leave town together. As Nick goes to tell Gatsby that he thinks Daisy is once again allied with her husband, Gatsby’s servant Herzog comes out of Gatsby’s house. Gatsby dismisses him impatiently, turns back to Nick and tells him that Daisy “just needs time to think.” Even though Nick continues to try and tell Gatsby about Daisy and Tom’s conversation, Gatsby won’t let him speak, unwilling to hear the truth. Gatsby starts for the door then stops and asks Nick to wait up with him, as the sun rises.
“That was the night he finally told me the truth,” Nick narrates, and we see Gatsby talking to Nick inside his mansion. Gatsby reveals the truth about his humble biography, pacing around the room while Nick listens attentively. We see the men walking out onto the dock, as Nick says, “It was also that night that I became aware of Gatsby’s extraordinary gift for hope, a gift that I have never found in any other person.” Gatsby tells Nick about a letter he sent to Daisy after the war, asking her to wait for him until he “had made something of himself.” The scene abruptly shifts to show George Wilson pulling a pistol out of a drawer and looking at it. “God sees everything,” Wilson says, as we see the eyes on the Eckleburg billboard and the camera swoops up to show the harbor.
Nick and Gatsby sit on Gatsby’s veranda, where they are interrupted by the servant, Herzog, who announces a call from Chicago. As the two men watch the sun rise over the water, Gatsby orders Herzog to keep the phone line open for a personal call. Nick looks conflicted, wondering whether to tell Gatsby about Daisy and Tom’s conversation. When another servant tells him that he is going to drain the pool, Gatsby tells him not to, because it’s such a beautiful day. Gatsby tells Nick he hasn’t used the pool all summer, and invites Nick to go for a swim with him. The two men descend the stairs to the pool as Gatsby orders Herzog to follow them with the phone in case Daisy calls. When Gatsby gets to the pool, Nick tells him he has to leave and go to work. “I understand,” says Gatsby, walking him out. The two men shake hands and say their goodbyes. When Gatsby says, “I suppose Daisy will call,” Nick simply says, “I suppose,” and leaves. Before leaving for good, Nick calls back to Gatsby, “Jay, they’re a rotten crowd! You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
In voiceover, Nick says he was glad that he told Gatsby that, “the only compliment I ever paid him,” as we see Gatsby walk away. Nick sits at his desk at his Wall Street office, and while business is booming, Nick is unable to generate any sales, and simply stares at his phone, bored and waiting for Gatsby to call with news. We then see Gatsby in a bathing suit, waiting for Daisy’s call beside the pool. He dives into the pool, and we see Daisy at the Buchanan estate staring at her phone and walking over to it slowly. Near the pool, we see a shadow, and as Gatsby emerges from the pool, his phone rings. Gatsby looks over at the phone and smiles, thinking it’s Daisy, but as he gets out of the pool, we see Wilson over his shoulder descending the steps to the pool, carrying a gun. As Herzog answers the phone, Wilson shoots Gatsby in the back. Gatsby reaches down and touches the blood collecting around his heart, whispers “Daisy” to himself and smiles, and falls backwards into the pool, dead. As Gatsby falls into the pool, Wilson shoots himself in the mouth. We see Nick frantically on the other end of the phone in his office, asking if everything is alright. It was not Daisy, but Nick who called Gatsby.
Gatsby’s body floats in the pool, as policemen and photographers and journalists congregate at his mansion. Nick narrates that the media “pinned everything on Gatsby: the affair with Myrtle, the hit and run, everything.” We see Daisy speaking to her daughter, as luggage is carried out of the Buchanan mansion. Daisy tells her daughter that they are going on a trip—“just you, me and daddy.” Nick calls the Buchanan residence, and a butler answers the phone. Daisy does not come to the phone, and Nick tells the butler to inform her that Gatsby’s funeral is the following day. The butler informs him that the Buchanans have gone away, as Tom and Daisy look up at the butler from the foyer of the house. Nick becomes more and more impatient, saying, “I know that she would want to be there…” and asking to speak with Daisy once again. “I have no further information,” says the butler, hanging up on Nick. Nick realizes how unethical the Buchanans are, and becomes angry, shouting at the reporters gathering around Gatsby’s coffin. “Get the hell out of here!” he yells.
Suddenly we see Gatsby’s mansion from the outside. The camera then ventures into the empty interior. The perspective swoops down from above to show Gatsby lying in his coffin, as Nick narrates, “I rang, I wrote, I implored, but not a single one of the sparkling hundreds that enjoyed his hospitality attended the funeral. And from Daisy, not even a flower. I was all he had.” We see Nick asleep on the staircase.
The scene transitions back to the sanatarium where Nick is writing his account of what happened. The doctor and an assistant wander into Nick’s room, where Nick is asleep on a sofa. We see stacks of pages surrounding the sleeping Nick, and letters from a typewriter flood the screen like snow. We see the New York skyline, as Nick narrates, “After Gatsby’s death, New York was haunted for me. That city, my once golden shimmering mirage, now made me sick.” We see Nick wandering through the streets of New York with a beard. He tells us that on his last night in New York he wandered through Gatsby’s mansion one last time. The mansion is abandoned and we see a montage of flashbacks of Gatsby’s parties, of Daisy’s visit, of Daisy and Gatsby’s professions of love. Nick looks out at the pool and the harbor beyond it. He then wanders out onto the dock, where he spies the green light at the Buchanan’s estate. At the end of the dock, Nick images the figure of Gatsby watching the green light, and says, “He had come such a long way, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. But he did not know that it was already behind him.” Gatsby turns over his shoulder as Nick narrates this, and sees Nick looking at him. The image of Gatsby reaches out again towards the green light, as Nick utters, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
We see Nick taking a page out of his typewriter, which says “Gatsby by Nick Carraway.” He places the title page on his manuscript, before taking out a pen and writing “The Great” above “Gatsby” on the title page. The shot of the title bleeds into a shot of the green light across the harbor as the film ends.
In this section of the film, we see the power of Tom and Daisy’s class status and the extent to which privilege protects members of the upper classes, when Tom assures Daisy that she will face no consequences for hitting and killing Myrtle. While Gatsby is emotional and upset by the entire incident, Tom is cool and collected, wearing his privilege with ease. Getting Daisy out of trouble with the law is simply a matter of making some phone calls and going on a trip. Thus we see the comfort and the stability that Tom’s high social standing affords him, and why he appeals to Daisy as a husband. At the Plaza Gatsby wanted Daisy to admit that she never loved Tom, but in the wake of the accident we can see that Daisy is also allied with Tom; he might be unfaithful and unfeeling, but he also offers Daisy a great amount of protection. Later, after Gatsby’s death, Nick realizes how untrustworthy Tom and Daisy were all along, when he says, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and people and then retreated back into their money and their vast carelessness.” In The Great Gatsby, Daisy and Tom are protected by their wealth and their status, and it is their wealth that turns them into villains.
While Gatsby has been revealed to have many flaws—he is unswervingly and naively ambitious, involved in crooked business deals, and flees the site of a deadly crime—it is in this portion of the film that Nick portrays him as a man endowed with the virtue of hope. As warm and dramatic music plays, we see a montage of Gatsby speaking about his life. In this part of the film, Nick is portrayed as admiring Gatsby for his guileless optimism, his conviction that everything will turn out for the best. Yet, Gatsby’s unflappable hope is also part of what makes him so flawed. His hope blinds him to the stakes of his precarious situation. Although it has led him to amass a great fortune, he has done so through nefarious and illegal routes. Although it keeps him optimistic about an eventual elopement with Daisy, the audience (and Nick) know that Daisy is likely to stay with her husband. Gatsby’s hope is what makes him remain in his mansion in West Egg, even though he has a car that will implicate him in Myrtle’s murder sitting in his driveway, and an angry George Wilson on his trail. Nick valorizes Gatsby for his hope, but this hope is also what proves so fatal to Jay Gatsby.
While there are no humungous parties in this portion of the film, and it takes a more dramatic tone, the film retains its heightened luster. When Gatsby tells Nick about the letter he sent to Daisy after the war, we see an image of Daisy, and the writing of the letter projected across the night sky. The fairy tale tonality of this moment mirrors Gatsby’s bright-eyed optimism, his delusions of grandeur, and his imagination, which so enchanted Daisy. The imaginative spirit with which Gatsby lives his life is reflected in the at-times-surrealistic and always-heightened way the film is shot.
The heightened tone extends into the climactic moment of Gatsby’s death. The scene is highly dramatic, shot with great suspense, only revealing George Wilson just before he fires the gun. Right when Gatsby hears the phone ring, he is shot. He falls into the pool in slow motion, thinking only of Daisy. The scene is suspenseful, verging on melodramatic. The heightened melodrama of the moment helps to highlight the tragic proportions of the ending. We see Gatsby’s body floating in the water, as photographers and journalists assemble above the surface. This extreme and evocative image paints a compelling picture of Gatsby’s tragic plight. Baz Luhrmann’s elevated style serves the narrative and makes the story all the more vivid and intense.
While Nick has had his ambivalences about the “great Gatsby,” he ends up being Gatsby’s only friend and supporter after the millionaire’s death. Indeed, in an ironic twist of fate, in the moment before his death, Gatsby hears Nick’s phone call and mistakes it for Daisy’s. Gatsby has maintained a fervent love for and devotion to Daisy throughout the film, while Daisy has abandoned him for her disloyal and unethical husband. Meanwhile, Nick is the only person in the world who cares about what happens to Gatsby. After Gatsby’s death, he tries to get in touch with Daisy and get her to come to the funeral. Nick is, in fact, the only person to attend Gatsby’s funeral, even though Gatsby’s life in West Egg was so heavily populated with party guests and acquaintances. For all of his wealth and social power, Gatsby dies a fundamentally lonely man, save for the attention and respect of his voyeuristic and passive neighbor, Nick Carraway. Indeed, at the end, when Nick imagines Gatsby on his dock, and narrates that Gatsby did not know that his dream was already behind him, the specter of Gatsby turns around to find a smiling Nick, his most devoted companion.