Did the weekend slip on by and you still didn’t get around to seeing THE GREAT GATSBY? If you haven’t already, this really is one movie you MUST try to see on the big screen. It’s such a visual feast, you won’t be able to savour its full aesthetic glory on a smaller screen once it disappears. While its’ success means GATSBY is likely to be on at the cinemas for a while, you don’t want to risk missing out.
There’s been much debate as to whether Baz Lurhmann’s latest offering is ‘all style and no substance’, or whether it’s a work of genius. I’d say it’s somewhere in-between. Largely because I’m such a huge fan of the book. Having studied it at an academic level, I’m very familiar with all the famous lines and phrases so anything short of perfect is going to be difficult to judge. Other critics roll their eyes at people like me and bemoan the fact that being old-fashioned traditionalists, we can’t truly appreciate Luhrmann’s masterpiece.
I disagree. I absolutely adore Luhrmann’s visual interpretation. The fast-sweeping camera-shots, the pace, the music, the colour and energy that bounce off the screen is infectious. The parties are so uplifting and sumptuous, you just want to dive right on in to that screen and soak it up for real.
Of course, Luhrmann’s wife and production designer of the film, Catherine Martin must take enormous credit for her vision and styling. In one word – superb.
But there were a few niggling issues for me that stood in the way of perfection. At the beginning of the movie, there’s a scene where the character Nick Carraway is pouring his heart out to a psychiatrist, played by Jack Thompson. This was not in the original book by F.Scott Fitzgerald. And for me, it does not sit well with the character of Nick, who is the only stable and reliable character in the entire story. He’s NOT the sort of person to spiral into a mental wilderness from his experience. As the book’s narrator, he is a man reflecting on the gorgeousness of Gatsby; a man who has a fond admiration and fascination for this enigmatic character who invested so much in his dream. So no, I did not believe Nick would end up wild-eyed in a shrink’s office.
The other annoyance was the number of times Gatsby rolls out the phrase, ‘old sport’ in the film. We KNOW Gatsby loves to use the term as a way of trying to appear up there with the upper echelons of society, but it’s over-use in the film meant I felt like saying ‘GOT IT’ every time Leonardo uttered the phrase. It took me out of the moment.
Leonardo DiCaprio is indeed charming as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan gives a fine performance as Daisy. But they’re not the first actors to take up the daunting challenge of trying to bring to life some of the literary world’s most famous characters.
Apparently there was a silent movie version of The Great Gatsby, made in 1926, directed by George Cukor – starring Warner Baxter and Lois Wilson.
Then a second film came out in 1949, starring Alan Ladd as Gatsby and Betty Field as Daisy. Released by Paramount Pictures, this one was directed by Elliot Nugent and produced by Richard Maibaum.
The third version, and most famous before now, starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Released in 1974, that film also had its detractors but was hugely popular, even making front page of Time Magazine. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, this is my favourite. The chemistry between Redford and Farrow is palpable – something I found a tad lacking between DiCaprio and Mulligan. Okay, yes, I confess, I am a Robert Redford tragic, so I am perhaps a little biased. But I also loved Sam Waterson playing Nick Carraway in this version. AND the script was written by Francis Ford Coppola, which speaks volumes.
But the 1974 Gatsby was slated for being too slow and uninspiring – something you could never say about Luhrmann’s version. Again, I repeat, despite my niggling criticisms, Luhrmann’s is a film you really must see. I am definitely going to see it again.
There were also two version of The Great Gatsby made for TV in 2000 and 2002, but they had little impact.
I suggest you see The Great Gatsby as soon as possible. Then head to the DVD store and borrow the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and compare the two. Let me know what you think. Who WAS the greatest Gatsby? DiCaprio or Redford? Leo has a twinkle in the eye, but for me, Robert carries the cool charisma essential to the character that IS Gatsby, to another level.