The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby question

Book vs. Movie
Brynna Chin Brynna May 25, 2017 04:19PM
Was the movie as good as the book? I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I'm scared that the movie will let me down.

The 1974 version is the definitive version and it lives up to what anyone can reasonably ask. It was made by immensely capable industry professionals who still--in 1974--had some connection with traces of the vanished Hollywood studio system. They took their careers, their reputations seriously.

In that pre-Lucas/pre-Spielberg era filmmakers like these faced a demanding, adult audience. You better believe they strove for excellence as well as profit. At the last minute --worried over whether they had the right magic--they brought in Francis Ford Coppola to finesse the script. The results speak for themselves. Coppola captured every important nuance of the plot and the characters.

And look at the cast. Dream casting. The actors assembled for this film were some of the top talent of the day--and that was the heyday of Nicholson, DeNiro, Hoffman, Voight, and Hackman. The lone exception was Lois Chiles; but her role was minor.

It's got the proper production values; gobs of atmosphere; and everyone was clearly striving to do their best.

Meanwhile, the recent remake is a piece of fukk*n garbage. It was made by a cheap, glitz-seeking hack who makes a practice of sabotaging films to aggrandize his own name. The only thing which excuses his colossal wrong-headedness is that its probably better to have someone like this outright butcher the assignment rather than sincerely try to do it right (and inevitably fail). Incompetence is much more painful than blatant sabotage, which is his style.

Its not that the book would be so hard for him to film; its that the 1974 version would be so hard to surpass. Luhrman just doesn't have the skill of anyone making films in 1974.

Think about it: he couldn't even film a period-piece film with appropriate period music. One of the most basic fundamental principles of movie-making. This is where he has to fiddle with things, to 'make his name'.

As for the 'stars' recruited for this bozo outing: they belong in MTV videos, or TV shows--rather than on the big screen.

Hmmm... It's been a while, but I'll take a shot at your question. As I recall, some significant changes take place with the characters. In the novel, Fitzgerald describes Tom as very controlling, very muscular, having "a cruel body" and--as evidenced in his beating of Myrtle--dangerously aggressive. In the movie, the actor is quite mousy. He certainly doesn't command people with his presence. Perhaps this was done to make Redford even more of a leading man. I dunno... Also, Fitzgerald describes Daisy as knowingly playing a game. She is part of the seedy uppercrust, and while she may seem frivolous, the novel gives us glimpses at her true depths. Farrow doesn't move into the subtext of Daisy's character and instead portrays her as simply ditsy. The main events are covered well in the movie, and Jordan Baker nails it, I think, but there are noticeable omissions including Owl Eyes and Gatsby's father.

Monty J (last edited May 11, 2018 01:08PM ) Jan 25, 2018 08:35PM   0 votes
Brynna wrote: "Was the movie as good as the book? I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I'm scared that the movie will let me down."

Baz Luhrmann's 2013 version turned my stomach. Even though he made a reasonable attempt at honoring the text, he threw everything away with the atrocious music, which sounded exactly like it was--Australians trying to imitate American jazz. Plus, there was so much music it gave the film the qualities of a musical. Music is supposed to support what's on the screen, not distract from it to the extent that realism is destroyed.

Fitzgerald went to a lot of trouble referencing period tunes in the novel, even citing lines from "Ain't We Got Fun." None of these ended up in Luhrmann's magum dopus.

I got the distinct impression from the Special Features that Luhrmann didn't know the difference between Hip-Hop and Be-Bop!

My next disappointment was the horrid cinematography. The camera was constantly zooming and panning, zooming and panning. It made me seasick.

I did not appreciate the way Luhrmann departed from the book in re-defining Tom's character, making him darker by failing to show him weeping after Myrtle's death and by having him voluntarily rat on Gatsby to Wilson and encourage him to seek revenge (neither happened.) In the novel, Tom did not give up Gatsby's name except at gunpoint when Wilson came to his house. There's a whale of a difference between coughing up information at gunpoint to protect your family and volunteering it while suborning murder.

Luhrmann intercut the film with scenes of Nick with a psychiatrist encouraging him to write about his summer with Gatsby, eventually turning out a novel manuscript. None of this was in the book, and it pulled me out of the story every time.

Luhrmann also failed to show the homosexual aspects of Nick's personality--the scene with McKee in his bedroom and the conductor on the train. In fairness, neither did the '74 version. Apparently, Hollywood continues to shrink from the tabu of homosexuality because it dries up ticket sales. In another twenty years maybe that will change.

I give Luhrman a 5/10, but DiCaprio did a superb job of portraying Gatsby, especially in the climactic Plaza Hotel scene when Gatsby blows up at Tom, drawing back his fist, symbolically revealing his true criminal character that's been hidden by his charismatic outer shell. Another great scene was in Nick's cottage when Gatsby reunites with Daisy. In both scenes DiCaprio sold me on Gatsby's deepest feelings. He gets 9/10.

Overall, I say watch all the film renditions of this great American novel and see how Hollywood milks it for the money instead of portraying what Fitzgerald actually wrote. In their defense, this is typical of Hollywood because movies cost so much to make, and investors want a return on their investment, however a nation's literature may suffer because of the liberties taken to increase revenues. This is why authors like JD Salinger refuse to allow their work to be reproduced in film.

Gary (last edited May 10, 2018 05:51AM ) May 26, 2017 05:29PM   0 votes
Which version?

For me the 1974 version is pretty definitive. I have quibbles, but when it comes to book to film adaptations, it's pretty solid. Some of the characterizations are a little off, and the dialogue is a little slow considering the witty, insouciance that FSF was going for, but overall I wouldn't knock it.

The 2013 version is very much the product of its time. That's not necessarily bad, mind you, but given that the book was the product of its time we run into something of a problem. You can tell it's how someone raised on special effects movies thinks people in the 20s would have looked and acted if they'd just had the good sense to be born in the 21st century. I find it a little jarring myself.

I say watch them both. I'm not a believer that a film can "ruin" a book. They can make a crappy adaptation, and it always sucks when someone misses the opportunity to do something profound when they have that kind of money/talent at their disposal, but the book is still there. It's just fine. You can still pick it up and read it like before. And if there are two (or more) adaptations then that helps vitiate any mental image from just one movie dominating your reading of the book.

M 25x33
Geoffrey Aronson I thought Mia was spot on. Ive always had problems with redford as an actor, but his distancing was on for this movie. I never thought Jordans actress ...more
Jun 03, 2019 05:34PM · flag

Gatsby is a tough movie to film. Every effort so far has not been great. The most recent, I think, is the most creative effort. Lurhman really goes for it, throwing it way over the top. In my opinion, because the book is difficult to transfer to film, the director really had to try something different. You won't be bored.

I think the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio is amazing.

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