Three Gatsbys for the Price of One

Monday, December 16, 2013

*This post contains spoilers about the book and the 1974, 2000 and 2013 versions of The Great Gatsby!*

To say I was excited for the release of Baz Lurhmann's The Great Gatsby is a bit of an understatement. Since I was originally preparing for a holiday release, my boyfriend bought me a beautiful copy of The Great Gatsby for Christmas. I started to envision characters in my head (but always Leonardo in the role of Gatsby!) and started to get really, really excited. I even re-visited watching Boardwalk Empire, a show I had given up on after 6 episodes a year or so earlier, to fully get into the mood of the 1920s. I then watched the Robert Redford and Mia Farrow 1974 version. I felt like I had fully studied up on The Great Gatsby and was ready to see the "ultimate" version (I ended up watching the made for TV A&E version afterwards, but more on that later.)

And well... blergh. It felt all wrong. Gaudy. Atrocious. Of course, considering Baz Lurhmann directed it, I should have known that was coming. The really unfortunate thing about Baz Lurhmann movies is I love the subject material, the soundtrack, and the costumes but unfortunately, not all together. I'm a huge stickler for historical accuracy and Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby misses the target for that. I get where Baz Lurhmann was going with the hip hop and modern music because he was trying to show just how taboo and outlandish jazz music was at the time. If he were to just play straight up jazz music, audiences would be like, "Ha, listen to this LAME jazz music!" I watched the special features for The Great Gatsby and I couldn't wrap my mind around how much "historical" research went into the project. You wouldn't know! Jordan Baker was golfing IN PANTS. In 1922. Some articles I found said they knew it wasn't accurate, but that they wanted to show that Jordan was a modern, advance thinking, independent girl. But couldn't this be shown through her actions? Through her speech? I know they want to contemporize the wardrobe but to me, that just dates it very quickly. While watching the 1974 version, which had a very, very minor 1970s luster to it, it seems dated. If you keep things historically accurate, they never seem dated. It will always seem set in the 1920s, not the 2010s version of the 1920s. Think Dirty Dancing. I love that movie, but a lot of people I know think it's set in the 1980s. Not the 1950s. Having the frizzed out hair was probably a bad way to "update" that film. Plus, there is no reason to contemporize fashion in films these days - so many people I know take fashion ideas straight from the looks of Downton Abbey and Mad Men! I bought 2 hard back Downton Abbey books without ever seeing the show. Just to take fashion inspiration from them.

I will let up on Baz for a second and rant about another version of Gatsby (but about basically the same premise.) Mira Sorvino had a wavy, sometimes straight hair style (basically a circa 2000 look, the year the movie was released) the entire duration of the film. NO NO NO. It needs to be in an updo!

The Great Gatsby, A&E TV movie, Mira Sorvina, Toby Stephens, Daisy Buchanan, couple, 1920s, F Scott Fitzgerald, movie stills, straight hair, hair down, fashion faux pas

But despite that fashion faux pas, this version was pretty good. Tom and Myrtle were less like caricatures and more like real people, Paul Rudd was excellent as Nick. He seemed more like a guy who was curious about Gatsby, who couldn't figure him out, not like Tobey Maguire's obsessive, "got nothing going on in my own life so I'll follow Gatsby around like a puppy dog, then go crazy and write a book about him" version of Nick. Speaking of which (not to jump back to Baz's version again, oops!) but why did they have to make Nick in a sanitorium? That just makes him lose all credibility. Maybe Gatsby didn't actually have big parties or wasn't anything special. Maybe Nick was just a crazy stalker who idolizes ordinary folk.

But back to the TV movie. I liked Jordan, again because she seemed like a likeable character, except she didn't seem out of reach enough. The other 2 versions of Jordan were beautiful ladies, with voices that purred out in unhesitant rhythm. TV Jordan just seemed too down to earth, too friendly. I liked that she seemed a little more multi-dimensional, more like a real person but she didn't have enough pizzazz.

The Great Gatsby, 2000, 1974, 2013, character comparisons, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker, Nick Carraway, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Mira Sorvino, Paul Rudd, F Scott Fitzgerald, movie stills

As for likeability and unlikeability, I didn't think there was any reason for Robert Redford's Gatsby to find Mia Farrow's Daisy appealing. She just seemed outright snobbish. Likewise, I couldn't see the appeal of the TV Gatsby. If he were just a poor nobody, I'm not sure why Daisy would fall for him. He was not all that charming. It's pretty bad if I'm watching that movie and I'm rooting for Tom!

As for the other portrayals of Gatsby, both Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio do an awesome job in my book. I love the sense of vulnerability both were able to show around their respective Daisys.

For overall authentic portrayal of the book, hands down winner is the 1974 version. It played out almost identically like how F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it, pulling dialogue from the book and everything. I was so disappointed with Lurhmann's version, how he revealed who Gatsby was halfway during the movie (isn't the entire point that we can't figure the guy out?) and that he skipped having Gatsby's father at his funeral. During the special features, he said that they filmed the scene  but that they cut it out because the scene was just telling the audience what they already knew (that his name was actually James Gatz and such.) Right Baz - because you weren't supposed to tell them yet! Oy! As for giving away too much too soon, the TV movie shows *spoiler* somebody getting shot in a pool in the opening credits. Even the lead up in the climax in Lurhmann's movie gave away too much too soon. It should have unraveled naturally. You should see things spiral out of control one step at a time. Tom tells George. George is distraught. Oh no, George is going to Gatsby's house. What is he going to do? Is he going to confront him? Showing that he has a weapon right away and stressing that "Gatsby's gonna get it" or however they put it leaves nothing to the imagination.

Phew. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I feel better. I think I got everything out of my system. This was supposed to be a legitimate movie review and it turned into a Baz bash fest. But it was cathartic! This must be how internet trolls feel.

In other news, I'm on a huge 1920s kick so I'm gonna' be writing flapper related posts all week! Check back for more fun soon!

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  1. Hi! I've just read your post and I think I quite agree with you... I haven't seen the Lurhman version yet but I'm quite afraid to see it... I love the book so much and the Redford performance that I'm very prudent...
    I haven't seen either the 2000 version but... her hairdo was a huge mistake for me too! ^^

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  3. I've seen the Lurhman version. I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I like it a lot more than the other versions. I didn't realize that a movie about the Roaring Twenties had to be sedate.

    ["For overall authentic portrayal of the book, hands down winner is the 1974 version. It played out almost identically like how F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it, pulling dialogue from the book and everything."]

    No, it wasn't. The 1974 version was no more faithful to Fitzgerald's novel than the other versions.