The Great Gatsby is one of the most iconic stories in the world. I was quite interested to see how this most recent adaptation would look on-screen. From what I had heard, this version was supposed to be the closest to the spirit of the book yet. Did I agree with this assumption?
Here is why:
On the surface, The Great Gatsby movie follows everything from the book. The Great Gatsby has always been ideal for making into a movie, because it is a novella. Short stories make the best movies. So, what do we have in the movie plot-wise? You have the essential plot points about Nick moving to West Egg, hanging out with his cousin, going on the fling party with Tom, coming back to be invited to Gastby’s party, viewing lots of summer parties, helping Daisy and Gastby start their fling, looking the other way while they have their fling, the inevitable confrontation, the first murder, and then the death of Gastby himself. All of that is there.
What I found the strangest about this rendition of the movie is how oddly specific they were about some scenes. For example, when Nick first goes to meet Daisy, the book talks about how it looks like the women are held aloft by billowing curtains. This is vividly done in the movie. The eyes of the advertisement in the ash pits is sort of a plot point of itself in the movie. I’m not sure why the movie focused so much on these points, but in the end, it sort of had a cartoon-like effect on the entire thing. In fact, I felt like the movie was sort of an exaggerated live graphic-novel of the story. As with a graphic novel, the focus was not on events, people, or plot, but setting. I found it disconcerting and distracting from what I consider to be the best parts of the book.
The movie was about 2 1/2 hours long. I think it could have easily been smashed into 1 1/2 hours and been better for it. This is what happens in the first hour and a half:
Essential plot points:
- Daisy and Nick reunite
- Tom takes Nick on his affair adventure
- Nick meets Gatsby
- Gastby and Daisy meet for tea
All of this takes up about 30 minutes of movie time.
Here is what takes up the other hour:
- Rave parties
- Drunken stupors
- 5 rap songs (maybe more)
- People dancing on tables
- Giant blow-up champagne bottles
- Giant blow-up bubbles
- Toby Maguire’s face
- Giant cakes
- A montage of Nick’s house being converted into a tea wonderland
- Shiny cars
- An invented mental break-down of Nick whereupon he starts to write the book at the insistence of his therapist
By the end of the first hour and a half, I was so angry, it honestly took me three tries before I could get all the way through the movie.
Here is what I did during the first hour and a half:
- Mimed slitting my wrists vertically.
- Texted my sister stating that it “is the worst movie in the world.”
- Shielded my eyes from the harsh brightness.
- Checked the box to see if Quentin Tarantino made the film (no).
- Shouted angrily at the screen when a rap song played.
Within the last 60 minutes of the film, the book took place. I actually enjoyed that bit of the movie. They even pulled real lines from the book and typed them up on screen, which was sort of cool, but it was really too late to save the feeling of the movie. The movie became a sort of love-story between Nick and Gastby, when that is not what the book was about at all. Nick in the movie, was way to involved in the story. Nick in the book is kind of behind it all. Yes, he does like Gatsby, but I think it was more because he felt sorry for him than because he admired him. Book Nick would never go crazy just because Gatsby died. He also didn’t become an author because of the story.
The movie played up the romance between Gatsby and Daisy, but in the book, it is almost a side plot. The book is more about uncovering the mystery of Gatsby. The movie focused on the green light and made it a sort of plot point to itself, but it is hardly mentioned in the book.
Just as the rest of the movie, I felt that everyone in this movie was fake. It was not designed to look realistic or believable at all. Everyone wore too-bright clothing, emphasized their words too much, and were just all overdone. This was more than likely intentional, but I hated it and hated every one of the characters. I always thought the book was supposed to show the contrast between the classes (not that Nick is any kind of poor in the book), but in this movie, everyone is the same: bright, loud, annoying.
The Great Gastby takes place during the roaring 20s. From all accounts, things did get a little crazy during that time, but this version of the story did not take place in the 1920s. It took place today in a world where everyone has decided to dress like they are from the 1920s. Nothing was real-everything was a costume or a set. The dancing was not period, the music certainly wasn’t, and the clothes and hairstyles weren’t really either. Everything was high contrast. There was even a scene where it showed the difference between the country and the ash piles by the railroad, and it was drawn like a child’s painting; here was the green of the country and here was the black of the ash piles. I felt like the overall setting for this movie was Sin City.
The feel of this movie is sort of dream-like, if you are dreaming while on drugs. I felt like the entire movie was a giant hallucination- at least the first hour and a half. The second hour sort of toned down and actually retained the spirit of the book somewhat. It became more literary and serious then, but the damage was already done. I am not sure why the producers decided to interpret the entire story as if they were creating using tubes of primary-colored paint, but that is what it felt like. The delicacies of the original story were destroyed.
Should you see this movie? I wouldn’t recommend it. I have no idea why everyone is so in love with it. A movie that does not stick to period music, costumes, or events, is not one that I can consciously recommend. I felt that this movie is almost a mockery of the book. Things that are elegant and subtle in the book are garish and glaring in the movie- which completely destroys the entire story for me.
If you would like to know what The Great Gatsby looks like as a modern graphic novel, then you should watch this movie. But if you really want to absorb the iconic story the way it was meant to be, read the book.
And to any movie makers who may ever read this review, please keep modern songs away from period pieces.