Gatsby (2013) B-
The Great Gatsby (1974) C
The Great Gatsby (1925) A
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published in 1925, yet it felt surprisingly applicable to current times. The novel, which has been adapted to the big screen four times, is superior to the 1974 and 2013 films. Both films follow the book rather closely, but neither duplicates the imagery, the intrigue, or the connection I had with narrator Nick Carraway while reading Fitzgerald’s magnum opus. The films are enjoyable and worthwhile; however, depending on your preference (contemporary glam or traditional aesthetics), you would be better served picking one of the two films to watch.
This redux, directed by Baz Luhrmann is brass, colorful and splashy. I understand the logic behind such an “in your face” approach. It is so similar to the book and the 1974 version, something had to be done to make it stand on its own. However, that something probably could have been dialed down a notch- less digital effects, less hip-hop (it's a decent soundtrack, but there's no need to beat us over the head with it) and less gloss. The film feels extremely over-produced. Luhrmann, and the rest of the creators behind this film are ultimately in a lose-lose situation. They are remaking a classic novel that has already been adapted for the screen three times prior. A few younger moviegoers may think Gatsby is “cool” and be inspired to read Fitzgerald’s novel. But, those of us who do not wear skinny jeans, and do not view film as a vehicle for profit, will likely find this over the top. That being said, Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby) and Carey Mulligan (Daisy) are preferable to their 1974 counterparts. DiCaprio evokes more emotion than Robert Redford’s 1974 portrayal of Gatsby, while it is not difficult for the fresh-faced Mulligan to outshine an anemic Mia Farrow who portrays Daisy in the 1974 version.
The Great Gatsby (1974)
The Great Gatsby circa 1974 felt a little slow and methodical after watching the newest version. Directed by the late Jack Clayton and screenplay adapted by celebrated filmmaker Francis Ford Coppela, this third installment was not well received by critics upon its release in 1974. However, it did go on to win two non-acting Academy Awards (Best Costume Design and Best Music) in 1975, while Coppela won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for The Godfather II that same year. Not to mention, Coppela was also competing against himself for Best Picture, as the ambitious filmmaker also wrote and directed The Conversation starring Gene Hackman (a fine film if you have not seen it). So, perhaps Coppela was not emotionally invested in the adapting the screenplay for The Great Gatsby; hence, its lack of appeal.
The characters here seemed to run the spectrum. Mia Farrow as Daisy seemed about as believable as a three dollar bill.
a logical choice for Jay Gatsby, seemed stiff and uninspired. On the other
hand, I preferred the young Sam Waterston over Tobey Maguire, the latest
version of Nick Carraway. Waterston brought anonymity to the role that Maguire
could not. From the beginning of the film, Waterston appeared sweaty and
slightly awkward, in a way that seemed authentic and not scripted. That was the
first sign that I liked this Nick Carraway. I also preferred model-turned
actress/former Bond girl, Lois Chiles as Jordan Baker (inspired by Edith
Cummings). Jordan Baker’s role was fairly small in both films, but she
represented one of the more memorable characters in the novel. Tom Buchanan, of
whom who Fitzgerald wrote,“He’s the best character I have ever done,” was the
most consistent and equally matched character in both films and the novel.