There are some books that should never be made into films. The Great Gatsby has always been one of them. The Great Gatsby is a short novel of 136 pages, the film starring Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, etc, etc, etc is a long film clocking in at 2 and half hours.
The opening sentences of the book see our narrator Nick remembering advice from his father-“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
In the film version, Nick’s dear old Dad said-“Always try to see the best in people.”
Maybe it’s a subtle difference between seeing the best in people and viewing the rest of the human race as inferior and deserving of pity, but it is still a bit of a difference in world views. The world as viewed by F. Scot Fitzgerald is as alien to us as the world viewed by William Shakespeare. Part of what makes a classic is that it has the ability to freeze a moment in time and show us that moment in more detail. Updating it might not be the best idea.
When I first heard about The Great Gatsby film I was shocked to hear that it was to be offered in 3D. To me this would be like making a 3D version of Ulysses or a 3D version of Jane Eyre-yes, you can do it, but why the hell would you want to? I guess the same reason you would want to fill a movie set in 1922 with rap and hip hop music, because you can. Then there was the amazing amount of CGI used, not just to reproduce million dollar cars, but to make whole sets and landscapes-all of which had that nice fake computer generated look. Clearly director Baz Luhrmann’s knows more than me, since the movie brought in $145 million domestically and $349 million worldwide.
The Great Gatsby is a story that is challenging because we are always guessing as to who the villains are and who the good guys are. Passages of The Great Gatsby are read as voice over throughout the film and lend a bit of literary feel. The main feel I got was one of massive Over The Topism. The rich people’s houses were like the Beast’s castle from Beauty and The Beast where his library held a million books and spiral staircase wound up infinite levels. I know Tom and Gatsby were rich, but they weren’t John D Rockefeller rich, they live in literal castles and have hundreds of servants.
For the most part I didn’t care about any of these people, so I didn’t much are about The Great Gatsby. The costumes were fun and I liked seeing all the poor lowlifes with their arms covered in Bakelite bracelets. So The Great Gatsby remains a great book and a so so film.