Premieres: May 10th, 2013
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan
You’ll Like This If: You like soap opera melodramas, cheesy 80s-type transitions, and have never read The Great Gatsby.
You’ll Hate This If: You love The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Period.
The Short and Skinny: Fair warning: Brace yourselves this is going to be a rant.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the tale of Jay Gatsby and his torrid obsession with his former love, Daisy Buchanan, as told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbor and Daisy’s cousin. The story is a portrait of the American jazz age and a cautionary tale of the American dream. Sadly, none of the beauty and tragedy of the original tome was in the film version of this timeless novel as directed by Baz Luhrmann.
From the day it was announced that The Great Gatsby was being turned into a film, I rejoiced. I think I may have even done a little dance. I was that excited. Let me explain: I adore The Great Gatsby. It is my very favorite book. I am also obsessed with the 1920s. I could literally spend hours (note the plural) talking to you about the influence of art deco, the jazz of the era, and the social upheaval of the time.
Gatsby is timeless.
Now here’s the rub: Why would you take a book that is so well known and ADD scenes that HAVE NEVER been in the book? WHY?!
Let’s start from the top: In the book, we first encounter Nick Carraway when he moves to West Egg, Long Island. Luhrmann, however, begins the film with Nick Carraway, a self-proclaimed writer, in a sanatorium. It annoys me to no end that it leads the audience to draw parallels between Nick Carraway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Problem is that Fitzgerald, despite his debilitating alcoholism,was never institutionalized. It was his wife, Zelda, that was. Although, I’m sure this was meant to be a wink at Fitzgerald fans, it served more as an annoyance than anything else. Any fan of Gatsby would have preferred a true version of the book over any possible wink that Luhrmann could have done. We’re here to see Gatsby in all his splendor, Luhrmann, NOT a messed up, rehab-ridden Carraway. Don’t try to perfect something that is already perfect.
Problem number two: the music. This one makes me really angry. Anyone with two eyes, the ability to read, and a brain knows that one of the most important aspects of Gatsby is the jazz age. Gatsby and jazz go hand-in-hand. This is a portrait of 1922. And not just any portrait, the most influential portrait of the 1920s. WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHANGE THE SOUNDS OF THE ERA FOR JAY-Z?! Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Jay-Z, but not in Gatsby. It truly makes me wonder if Luhrmann even understands the novel. The sounds of the era are described throughout the book. Prohibition, jazz, decadence, and excess – these are all wrapped tightly into one. Removing just one of those elements from the story feels downright wrong. Let’s not even mention that Gatsby was a bootlegger that very likely provided alcohol to the very clubs that Luhrmann refuses to properly acknowledge through sound.
Lastly, all the beauty and grit of the era was stripped way leaving us with an overdone, cheesy, bastardized version of The Great Gatsby. I expected to see 1920s New York in all its pride and glory not a smokey, cheapened version. And let’s not even get into the cheesy scene transitions. I felt like I was watching a film from the 80s not something from 2013. Although Carey Mulligan was wonderful as Daisy and Dicaprio was Gatsby, this film was a mess from beginning to end.
Keep or Pass: Pass, wait for DVD or actually read The Great Gatsby (something Baz Luhrmann surely did not do).