Friday, May 10, 2013

Book to Movie Review - The Great Gatsby (2013)

Jay Gatsby is not an ordinary man, he is, after all The Great Gatsby. Anyone who has read Fitzgerald's work knows that, but how does one portray this in a twenty-first century movie theater? How can one remain true to the era of the story (1920s) while building a story and character that can be just as magnanimous in 2013?

You call Baz Luhrmann.

I went to see The Great Gatsby last night and I loved it. Luhrmannn magically sets the scene with an aged, depressed and alcoholic Nick Caraway (Tobey Maguire's character) telling a doctor the story of a man who above all others embodied hope, Jay Gatsby. As he begins to reflect, Luhrmann presents the scene by embedding actual footage of the era into his introduction. By the time we are set free into Luhrmann's creative hands for the rest of the Gatsby ride, we are sold on setting, tone and emotion.

A surprise for me was how effectively the 3D was used in this film. My husband and I only went to the 3D showing because it was earliest one, but I must say the extra money was well worth it. Taking the trip with Nick to his first party at the Gatsby mansion in 3D was nothing short of awesome. It is a refreshing change to see a filmmaker use this technology to enhance their film, not just its ticket prices.

However, even if you skip the 3D, you still won't miss this film's greatest enhancement: the music. In my opinion Luhrmann has an amazing ability to add his soundtrack to the list of characters in his films. In Gatsby he delicately wove together classic sounds from the 1920s with cutting edge artists from today. This tapestry of tunes brought a vivacity to Gatsby's parties, heartbreak to love scenes and adventure Nick's journey in his brand new New York life. It is, without question, one of the major reasons this film will succeed with modern audiences.

In the end, this movie succeeds because of the strength of its story and characters. In Jay Gatsby we find a larger than life character who clings to hope in such an innocent way that he misses the obvious ugliness of his heart's desire and the world he inhabits. In Nick Calloway, we find a man balanced between two worlds of old and new money, with a foot in each door deciding which direction he wants to step. The actors become these men through their demeanor, their dress and their gait. These two, of course, are not alone. The entire cast delivers stellar performances driving the audience to love and hate them at all the right moments.

Book to Movie Review

As much as I enjoyed The Great Gatsby when I first read it this winter, I must (regretfully) admit that in some small way the story felt stale to me. Perhaps it was my own imagining of what the worlds of "old money" and "new money" are actually like in this era or any other. I don't think it was Fitzgerald's writing for any matter. The thing is, I read it and felt like that was definitely an "assigned reading" type of book that, perhaps, would come to life in a second reading (which I have been reluctant to do).

After emerging from the theater last night, I can see how hopelessly wrong I was! This is one of those cases where I will not say that "the book was better than the movie," nor will I say "the movie was better than the book," rather I will round this all up by saying this movie fully enhanced the reading of The Great Gatsby. So, in particular, if you have any kids moaning and groaning about this "Gatsby guy" they've been reading about in English class, I would highly recommend bringing them to the theater, just to give them a sense of the thrill within the pages.

My Final Word

I don't know what your plans are for this weekend, Old Sport, but if you are a book lover, a movie lover and you are looking to get transported to another time for a couple of hours, then you owe it to yourself to go see The Great Gatsby while it is on the big screen.


  1. I read the book ages ago, and I'm interested in seeing this movie someday. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the movie. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Lisa Buie-CollardMay 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    I read the book and wasn't interested in seeing the movie (haven't seen the first one either with Rob Redford) but now I will!