I find some parts of the original novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald very confusing, just by the fact that Fitzgerald used a different sort of language than most of the authors I read do. Maybe that’s why I find watching adaptations of these sorts of stories so edifying. Because I can actually understand what’s happening.
The latest outing of The Great Gatsby in Hollywood, this time helmed by visionary director Baz Luhrmann and starring the still-youthful Leonardo DiCaprio (what’s that guy’s secret anyway?), is an interesting take on the old story. Luhrmann takes out a lot of character development and does a lot of telling rather than showing Gatsby’s history in order to make room for stunning 3D effects and his usual eye-candy filming. Most of the character development is devoted to developing the warm relationship between DiCaprio’s Gatsby and Tobey Macguire’s Nick Carraway, making them seem like the best of friends. There’s also a bit of time spent on the complicated relationship between Gatsby and Carey Mulligan’s depressed-and-indecisive-but-still-trying-to-seem-sunny Daisy Buchanan, but not as much as that between Gatsby and Nick.
We also don’t see much of what precipitates the final events of the novel and skip over the entire funeral, which might upset quite a few purists. And the relationship between Nick and Jordan? Dashed out completely in favor of showing Nick therapy-writing Gatsby story at a sanitarium, where’s he’s been placed due to alcoholism and all the issues he’s feeling as a result of what happened to him in America.
But credit to Luhrmann, the party scenes are so enticing, especially in 3D, that you want to step right into the party and have a drink, or at least rewind the movie to watch those scenes again. And the arguments during the final half of the movie are realistic and emotional, so much so you feel like you could be seeing an actual fight between real people. And finally, Jay-Z’s rocking soundtrack is so much fun to listen to that you find yourself grooving in your seat. There should be an Oscar just for that.
Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this film. But I enjoyed it anyway and I felt it was a very decent adaptation. So for The Great Gatsby I give a grade of 3.7 out of 5. Not the best film I’ll see this summer, but definitely a well-spent two and a half hours.