Are there such things as second chances? If something doesn’t work out the first time, should we just let it be and not try again? If a book is adapted into a bad film the first time, should it just stay a book and never be made into a film again? As I expressed in my page to screen review of the original Great Gatsby film and book, I had hoped that this recent remake would be able to capture some of the magic from the book that the original film adaptation hadn’t. I had seen the trailers and my expectations were high given how dazzling and colorful they seemed. Could those two and a half minutes translate to a film that made me forget the travesty of the first attempt of adapting this novel for the screen?
For those of you who have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel (shame on you) or seen the first film (don’t waste your time), The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a recent Yale graduate who moves to West Egg, Long Island. There he is reunited with his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), who live on the other side of the bay in East Egg. While living in his modest cabin, Nick moves next to the mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), about whom not much is known. In fact people aren’t even sure he actually exists. All that is known is that he throws the most extravagant parties, which are the social events of the year. One day Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties, and through a private meeting with Gatsby finds out that he was once romantically involved with Nick’s cousin Daisy, with whom he is still madly in love. One afternoon, Nick invites Daisy over for tea at Gatsby’s request to reunite him with his long-lost lover. Sparks immediately fly between the two and they begin to have an affair. Who will Daisy choose, the man she gave her word to and has given her her current status in society or her former love, who seems to be the true love of her life.
I am so torn about how I feel regarding this film. There were certain aspects of the film that I loved and really appreciated, yet there were other things that just fell flat. I thought that it was visually stunning. The party scenes were exactly as I imagined them, and I thought that director Baz Lurhmann did exceptionally well creating, at the same time, a world of mystery and delight . Another thing that was amazing about the film was the music. Lurhmann has a way of making the music another character in his films, which really brings the story and characters to life. The score for this film was executive produced by Jay Z and had many current artists recreating some jazz-age favorites with a modern twist. The music definitely helped bring to life the grandiose ideas behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters.
Something still fell flat in this translation. It was better than the first film, but still lacked some of the spark that existed in the book. I thought Carey Mulligan seemed very out-of-place as Daisy and looked like a baby compared to the rest of the cast. The way Lurhmann decided to tell the story as a flashback from Carraway’s perspective, as he’s being admitted to a rehabilitation center for alcoholism, was a good choice, but again something fell flat. It lacked the magic of the book, and the anticipation I felt when reading didn’t seem to follow me as I watched the film.
In the end I thought it was better than the first film, but still not as good as the book. Writing this review several months after I saw the film, has helped me write a more honest and accurate review. At first I was so enamored by the music and the lights I wouldn’t have given it such a critical review. I’ll end with this piece of advice: if you have to see a film version for a class pick this one, but if you have time, stick to the book (and this is coming from a non-reader.) Until next time, happy viewing.
3 out 5 Stars
The Great Gatsby (2013)
PG-13, 143 Minutes