Gatsby the Book vs. Gatsby the FIlm

Sometimes I make stupid decisions. Like, oh, telling my students if they read The Great Gatsby and saw the movie they could get extra credit if they took a quiz. This, unfortunately, meant that I had to see the train wreck of a movie. I read it the day before seeing it so that the story would be fresh in my mind, which made the movie just that much more disappointing. 

First of all, the soundtrack was an experiment gone very, very bad. I'm a fan of Jay-Z, don't get me wrong, but pairing his talents with a movie set in the roaring twenties was just plain stupid. And along with the music often came this sort of rap music video feel that's so far from Fitzgerald that it was comical. There's one scene where Gatsby and Nick are driving over a bridge, with some sort of rap song playing, and in the opposite direction comes a car full of scantily clad women drinking champagne and dancing. No! Just no! This was the Jazz Age! Come on!

Secondly was the glitz and glamor surrounding the movie, as well as within in it. Yes, Gatsby's parties were extravagant, but they were supposed to be somewhat elegant and stylized. Baz Luhrmann created a bona fide mess out of Gatsby's mansion- he took "over the top" and multiplied it by a million. Fitzgerald's message behind the novel is that too much wealth ruins lives, not that it's something to be celebrated. The overall feel of what the novel is was lost completely.

Another issue that I had was Carrie Mulligan's portrayal of Daisy. I generally like her, but I felt that she played this role as a total space cadet that was void of anything substantial. In the book she is quite silly at times, but she's not a simple character that is totally clueless about what is happening and what she's a part of. Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick were fine casting choices, but Mulligan failed to impress. 

The film starts off with Nick Caraway in a mental institution talking to his psychiatrist, a choice Lurhmann makes in order to provided the necessary back story and voice overs. This insinuates that Nick needs this, that he was so fragile and traumatized from the events of the summer that he couldn't handle himself any longer, something that Fitzgerald does not allude to in the book. Nick is supposedly writing down the story at the doctor's suggestion, in order to cope. Luhrmann also does these horrible "write overs" on some of the scenes, serving to be even more distracting from the actual story. 

In all fairness, there were some positives. The set designers who created the Gatsby and Buchanan estates did a wonderful job- they're beautiful. There are also a few scenes that were relatively well-done, one with Gatsby giving Nick and Daisy a tour of his home, and then also most of the scene in which the truth comes out about the relationship at the Plaza. 

It blows me away how something so true to the original dialogue can be so far away from the intended essence of the story. 


  1. I think I'll just read the book...

  2. I didn't like the movie either...and I especially hated the whole aspect of Nick in the mental hospital. It was totally unnecessary.

  3. Le sigh. Adding or removing certain parts of the plot would be preferable to missing the point, as it seems is the case here. I find almost all movies based on books to be disappointing. Sounds like this is another one to add to the list.

  4. Well, we've agreed to disagree on this one! I loved the movie. It was a spectacle. It was entertaining. It was a visual and audio feast. I didn't watch it and mentally compare it to the book - instead, I put my 'Baz' hat on and enjoyed his take on one of my favourite books.