The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald… Almost every high school in America includes this novel in their curriculum. My high school did not do this book justice, and I recently re-read Gatsby and fell in love with it. For as hopeless as it seems to end, The Great Gatsby is beautiful and rhythmic, built on symbolism and metaphor. Everyone should read this book at least once in their life… seriously.
I’ve never seen any other film adaptation of the novel, however, I’ve heard that there are a few out there and that they suck (for lack of a better term). So when I started seeing trailers for this version of Gatsby, I got really excited. Then I started hearing some mixed reviews, which made me a little nervous about seeing it. However, after having the weekend to really digest what I saw, I can say that even though it didn’t live up to the novel (no movie adaptation ever will, let’s be honest), I was content with what Baz Luhrmann presented us with.
The Great Gatsby (2013) is narrated by Nick Carraway, a mid-Westerner who moves to New York City in order to pursue a career in stocks and bonds, even though what he really wants to do is write. He moves into a small cottage in West Egg, across the river from his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, and next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby. As Nick gets pulled into the lavish lives of the rich and the shallow, he is also drawn to the mystery that surrounds Gatsby’s past and who he really is.
There were things about Luhrmann’s adaptation that I liked and disliked.
To start with, I wasn’t really a big fan of some of the music that was present in the film. It was a cool concept that I thought would be interesting, however, at times it kind of took away from the whole Roaring ‘20s feel that the movie should have had. However, the remixes of modern day music with a jazzy spin on them were kind of cool.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the narrative in the film. After discussing this with my mom, I can understand how the narrative would have helped for some people who have never read the novel. However, I wasn’t really buying into it. I thought it was corny, mainly because of the dialogue between Nick and his doctor. When it was just Nick and his typewriter with the voice over narration—that was when I enjoyed the narrative the most.
Now let’s talk about the visuals, because they’re kind of hard to ignore. I really like them. I liked all the attention to detail and how lavish and beautiful everything looked. However, they were very overwhelming… and sometimes cartoonish, which put me off a little bit.
As far as acting went, nobody was terrible but nobody was outstanding either—with one exception. This was Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie—he was a great Gatsby (do you see what I did there?!). The one qualm that I have with this movie is that they didn’t just let the actors act because the majority of the time, the visual aspects drowned everything out. But DiCaprio really did capture the essence of Jay Gatsby, this harsh metaphor for the American Dream who’s stuck in the past.
This was a very respectful adaptation of the novel. The Great Gatsby is a book with a plot that revolves around metaphor and symbolism—the green light, the downfall of the American Dream, the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, time, etc. I thought that the film was very reverent in portraying these things. For example, in one scene where Gatsby, Nick, and Daisy are sitting in Nick’s living room, Gatsby accidentally knocks over a clock on the mantel and breaks it. As he’s trying to repair it, he starts to beat it, but fails in repairing it. Time is something that Gatsby wants to control, as portrayed in his famous quote: “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” and in the end, he has no control over it and he doesn’t get to go back in time with Daisy Buchanan. I don’t know if the scene was improvised or intentional. I’d like to think it was intentional because I really enjoyed how subtle, yet how important to the outcome of the story it was.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby. It wasn’t perfect, however, it’s far from terrible. It was very respectful to the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And hell, it’ll give the kids something interesting to watch in English classes all across America now!