After leaving a showing of The Great Gatsby yesterday, I was surprised at the reviews I had read previously. A lot of people called out Baz Luhrmann’s in your face style (which I happen to love) but many critics seemed to say something along the lines of “go in with no expectations of how you remember the book. Think of them as two entirely separate entities so that you can enjoy both”. Now, this is normally excellent advice for seeing a movie adaptation of any book. But I’m confused - had those who gave this advice for this film never read the original Fitzgerald novel? Because they were almost exactly the same.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was the best film adaptation of any book ever (because there have been some very good movies that have been very loosely adapted) but it was certainly the most true to its original content. I haven’t read the book for about six years, but when I was watching the movie, all of it came flooding back. And my Dad, who had just finished reading the book again a few days ago, was stunned at how exact the book was translated to the screen.
Large chunks of dialogue and narration were ripped directly from the text and the imagery was exact. Luhrmann even went so far as to use the original book cover image for the billboard of the optometrist. All the casting and acting was on point and the costumes. My god, the costumes. Let’s just say, it was leaps and bounds better than the weird 1920s/1970s suits from the Robert Redford “adaptation”.
A lot of people have complained about the music, the overdone party scenes, the weird disjointed scenes, and the overdone imagery. And again, I ask these people: have you read the book? Luhrmann captured the bizarre tableau nature of the book so well, while managing to keep the audience engaged without much of a plot. The delight of reading Fitzgerald’s book is the imagery and the beautiful writing. Luhrmann didn’t try to mess with this.
As for the music and ridiculous party scenes, well, that’s kind of what the twenties were, wasn’t it? Certainly Fitzgerald’s 1920s. Nick Carraway is disgusted by the excess of it all by the end - seeing that excess first is half the fun.
Now, of course, things were changed, left out, or smushed together. But this is the risk of any book adaptation. Sure, we didn’t get as much Jordan and Nick as the book gives, but I wouldn’t say it was terribly missed in an already two and a half hour film. Nick doesn’t end up in a Sanatorium, but this device helped frame the narration a little bit.
So everyone should get off their literary high horses and just enjoy this visually and emotionally rich movie. Also, damn, Leo - you still look good.
(also, this screen cap is everything)