Posted by: ckckred | May 23, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Another failed adaptation of the classic book

Another failed adaptation of the classic book

The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest novels of all time that like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains some of the best social commentary on America.  And like Huck Finn, The Great Gatsby hasn’t produced a single memorable movie adaptation.  The most iconic of The Great Gatsby movies is the 1974 version starring Robert Redford, which debuted to mixed reviews.  I thought it unlikely that another adaptation would succeed, and when I saw the trailers for director Baz Luhrmann’s (of Mouline Rouge! fame) version of the book, I was unconvinced the film could live up to the book.

My prediction was spot on.  I was miserable throughout the entire two and a half hour time span of The Great Gatsby, with every minute seeming to stretch on for hours.  It’s a largely overbearing movie that throws visuals into the audience’s face and ditches Fitzgerald’s message of the loss of morals in the 1920s for romantic stories, glitter, and a distracting and completely out-of-place soundtrack made by Jay-Z.

The Great Gatsby’s story is basic.  If you’ve never read the novel, it’s a take on the roaring 20s in New York City, told through the eyes of bond salesman Nick Carraway (played in the film by Tobey Maguire).  Nick moves to the bustling town of West Egg, right near his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her adulterous husband Tom (Joel Edgerton, doing a Dick Tracy-like performance).  Nick lives next to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a wealthy man who hosts big parties every night in his mansion.  Gatsby’s a mysterious figure (people question where he has obtained his money).  Gatsby grows accustomed to Nick’s presence and soon the two strike up a friendship.

The Great Gatsby’s main plot is about Gatsby’s attempts to court Daisy, whom he has loved for many years, but the novel operates as a criticism of the 20s, portraying it as a shallow time where people focused more on style rather than substance (which perfectly describes the film itself).  The movie focuses primarily on Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship, not on the decay of society on the 20s.

Luhrmann’s visual style is well known throughout Hollywood.  He produces impressive sets and visuals for his movies as he did in Moulin Rouge! and Romeo+Juliet, but he can’t call upon elements of story making in his work, relying upon camerawork to carry his pictures instead.  The Great Gatsby is no different.  The sets are no doubt impressive, but are visually draining to the audience.  I saw the film in 2-D and my eyes were straining after about fifteen minutes.

But what’s more upsetting are the performances.  Maguire is a talented actor but is very miscast as Nick.  He supplies the narration of the picture that grows irritating throughout the movie, not to mention he cannot summon up chemistry with other actors.  Mulligan, an actress I admire, is given nothing to do as Daisy and overacts in most scenes.  The only actor who gives an inspired performance is DiCaprio, providing the film’s only charisma.

But even DiCaprio can’t save the movie from disaster.  The Great Gatsby is an aggravating experience.  I found myself bored and uninterested throughout the entire picture.



  1. Oh man that’s too bad, with a cast like this you would think that alone would peek your interest a little. I really have no desire to see it really except for watching Carey Mulligan for two hours.

    • I was hoping the cast would help the film as well. I like Mulligan but she was not used well in the movie and the only actor who makes good use of their material is DiCaprio. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I wasn’t crazy about this either but it became a much bigger hit than anticipated. $100M and still climbing!! Great review.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I knew this would be a big hit, hopefully this doesn’t encourage Hollywood to make more glossy 3D movies on classic novels.

  3. Nice review man. I haven’t caught this yet and even though it’s not had great reviews, I’m still a little intrigued by it. I might wait for DVD though.

    • Thanks! It might actually be better to catch on TV. My eyes were straining after seeing it in theaters.

  4. Heh. LOL. I can see where you’re coming from, CK. I didn’t find it as miserable, myself, but I can understand your point of view. I managed to find a decent amount of entertainment within, but not enough to pull it out of the “meh” zone.

    • Yeah, I had a bit of a rant there. It was probably a bit better than I made it out, but ultimately found the movie kind of empty. Thanks for commenting.

      • No, no. Not at all, I totally can see where you’re coming from…

      • If it was better than you made it to be, it wasn’t by much. This film is not good. Though I put far more blame on the director than the actors. I think the cast could have made this memorable, maybe even great, if Luhrmam had just gotten out of their way.

      • Thanks for the comment. Yeah, the movie was a huge mess and I think most of the blame goes to Luhrman. Worst movie I’ve seen in theaters within the last few years.

      • Only question: did you see Getaway?


  5. I liked the film a bit more than you did, I definitely wasn’t bored by it and the music didn’t bother me as much as had expected, but I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Tobey Maguire and his voice over narration was the worst part of the film for me.

    • I like Maguire, but his narration and character were not well placed in the movie. I thought the film lacked depth, which is why I couldn’t get into it. Thanks for commenting.

  6. What a pity. All the makings of fantastic (director,actors,heritage,effects) but somehow gets tangled into itself like fishing wire run amok.

    • Yeah, the movie had plenty of talented people behind it. Unfortunately, the concept wasn’t executed very well. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Wow. Great review and you state your claim very well. But I quite like this movie. I am a huge fan of the book and it’s superior to this film no doubt. But I really liked what Luhrmann did hear and I found the movie to be more about Nick than Gatsby. I appreciated the numerous underlying themes that ran through the film (much like the book). I also love practically every performance.

    I do agree with some of your criticisms. This isn’t a perfect movie. But I have to admit it was a little better than I expected.

    Good discussion my friend.

    • Thanks! I liked how Luhrmann exaggerated the parties but ultimately felt he left out the purpose of the book.

      • That’s definitely a fair criticism. I can see where this is easily a divisive film. His style makes it that way.

  8. It doesn’t approach the greatness of the book and it is a flawed film, but I didn’t dislike it. I definitely agree that the narration is frustrating and I didn’t care too much for Maguire in the role of Nick (or Mulligan in the role of Daisy). I thought Joel Edgerton gave the film’s best performance as Tom. Nice review.

    • Thanks! I seem to be alone in really disliking it. Edgerton did give a capable, if exaggerated, performance, but I felt Mulligan and Maguire were misused in the picture. Two talented actors should have been given better material.

  9. All beauty, nothing else. Sure, the acting is fine, but if you don’t have a character and story I don’t give a crap about, then I’m just going to lose all of my interest. That’s exactly what happened here. Good review.

    • Thanks! You perfectly describe it.

  10. Why not simply go all in and make this film modern. Set it in the Hamptons and have everyone working as investment bankers on Wall Street and Daisy and Tom run off with their cash to the Cayman Islands. That is a film I would like to see.

    • I think that would very much improve the movie. The film didn’t know whether to be an evocation of the 20s or the present. If it was set today, it would be more interesting to see. Thanks for commenting.

  11. I agree with your review. So far worst movie of the Summer.

    • Glad you agree. This probably is the worst movie I’ve seen for quite a while.

  12. […] Reviews. On the other hand, Fast Film Reviews, CyniCritics, Film Haiku, Victors Movie Reviews and Cinematic all thought it was pretty […]

  13. Absolutely hated it.

    I understand that a lot was changed from the novel; none of the actors suit the characters, in my opinion, but that’s not really a problem. Harry Potter did it.

    The difference is, Harry Potter is plot and character. You’ve already said it: Gatsby is a masterpiece. This film doesn’t even scratch the surface of the novel’s depth and plight.

    • I’m glad you agree. I had to edit my review a couple of times and the earlier drafts were far more scathing. I felt the movie wasn’t an adaptation of the novel but just a glossy alteration lacking all of its depth. I love the book, but the film is an absolute mess. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Nice review. I’ll wait for the DVD. Hmm, Jay-Z did the sound track for a movie set in 20’s, that’s puzzling?

    • Thanks! It’ll probably play better on TV. Yeah, Jay-Z did the soundtrack and I think that’s rather of a self-indulgent move since he also executive produced the movie. It also fits rather badly in.

  15. Exactly my thoughts, was very disappointed by the movie.

    • Glad to see I’m not alone. Thanks for co,,enting.

  16. I liked it a bit more than you haha. The sometimes awkward editing didn’t help some of the more stylish scenes. I don’t think they stayed on the same shot for more than five seconds. Just bounding from one angle to another. So hyperactive!

    • The editing style was really nauseating. That’s the main style of Lurhmann’s films which is why I’m not a fan of his work. Thanks for commenting.

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