Although Nick tells his therapist at the beginning of the movie that he became an alcoholic after the death of Gatsby, I believe that it was well before Gatsby’s death that Nick became addicted to booze. That afternoon is when Nick becomes an alcoholic, and Luhrmann wonderfully hints at this through the playing of Flux Pavilion’s “I Can’t Stop ? in the background. Including that afternoon in Tom’s apartment, Nick “had been drunk just twice in his life ?.
Upon lifting the glass and taking a drink, Nick’s face lights up with joy, as he proves to greatly enjoy the feeling he’s only felt one other time in his life. That afternoon was only the beginning of a long string of drunken nights in New York, as the summer had only just begun, and the parties only being held more often as the summer goes on. Luhrmann’s choice of playing “I Can’t Stop ? in the background of this scene was no mistake; He used it to symbolize Nick’s inner feeling of literally not being able to stop.
This drink wasn’t one marking the start of a fun afternoon that would be over by that night; it marked the beginning of a long summer filled with over-drinking. The buzz he received wasn’t that of the drink, but rather the vibe of the city. Nick fell in love with the city and the people, but along with them came the drinking. Nick consistently got drunk probably every weekend that summer at Gatsby’s parties. At the first one he attends, he has visibly drank too much: stumbling around, talking to everyone he comes across.
Also, almost every time the camera shows Nick at Gatsby’s house, he has a drink in his hand. When one goes from only being drunk once before in their life, to drinking every weekend there has to be something wrong. Nick couldn’t have noticed his problem in the moment though, because he was enjoying every moment of it, and didn’t see anything wrong with having fun. The best example of this is when Nick is stumbling around at Gatsby’s party; As he roams the party admiring everything he lays his eyes on, Baz Luhrmann plays Will. i. am’s “Bang Bang ? and the lyric “Love stupid, I know it ? are heard.
Nick has fallen in love with this up-beat lifestyle of constant partying. Keep in mind that Nick later describes himself as “roaring drunk ? that night, so the enjoyment wasn’t just coming from the social aspect. It’s a very extreme shift to go from having been drunk one time in your life to getting drunk every weekend, even sometimes during the week. So how does Nick justify all of this to himself? Why hasn’t he noticed that his life, although he greatly enjoys every moment of it, is going down the deep end because of alcoholism?
The soundtrack says it best; “A little party never killed nobody ?. I believe that this was Nick’s motto the whole summer; Believing he can make up for all the drinks and “fun ? that he missed out on in the past, this summer, and not letting it take a toll on his life ¦ which obviously wasn’t the case. Although the party didn’t directly kill Nick, it killed his best friend Jay Gatsby, killing Nick mentally and emotionally. Left with no one and no thing to enjoy in life but drinking, Nick only descended further into the deep end of alcoholism.
It was at this point that Nick believed he’d become an alcoholic, when really it had been with him the whole time, the only difference being that he had people to enjoy it with before. Nick Carraway became an alcoholic the moment he arrived in New York. Although he didn’t have a drink until his second day there, he became addicted to the city, its vibe, and its people. But with those three great characteristics of New York City came the great catch 22: Alcoholism. Nick “ stop ? himself from immersing himself in the city’s appeals, therefore conceding himself to a new lifestyle of boozin’ and cruisin’ till the sun goes down.