If there is one thing in life that I have a love/hate relationship with, it is film adaptations of great literature. I love it and I hate it. On one hand, I love the visualization of a great novel on the big screen.
But then there is the struggle to capture a literary voice in a new medium. Sometimes it goes well, but other times it goes horribly, horribly wrong. I rarely allow myself to be excited about a film adaptation.
But The Great Gatsby film adaptation released in 2013 is one that I looked forward to seeing. So when Danny Boy and I realized we could use our college id’s (makes me sound younger than I am…) to see a film at Hollywood Blvd. for $3 last night, we jumped up and headed out the door.
First of all, let me explain Hollywood Blvd to those outside the Chicagoland area. They serve dinner while you watch the film and include some clever-named menu items. It’s basically a haven for film enthusiasts since they also host special events and decorate every inch of wall space with movie images or memorabilia.
A place like this often gets two responses. You are either annoyed that a waiter is disrupting your movie watching with drink orders and food or you love it and embrace it wholeheartedly.
I personally love this place and yelp about it plenty. But I am getting distracted from the main point here, the movie. Warning, there will be spoilers coming up!
1) The Soundtrack. This is as good as it gets in my opinion. The music is great blend of contemporary music and the sounds of the 20’s. You may also feel the urge to jump up and dance though most theaters frown upon this behavior unless you are at a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
2) Visualizations. The overall film is visually vibrant and fun to watch. They paid attention to the details of the book and really made them come alive. The Valley of Ashes with the old billboard eyes looking through the glasses was done perfectly. The party scenes were loud and bright as expected. However, the visuals did not take away from the character development which was pretty spot on. I feel like some movies try to focus on the visuals and forget to develop the characters.
The best moment is when Myrtle Wilson is hit by a car. F. Scott Fitzgerald was very descriptive in how her breast was ripped open and bleeding. The film made sure to include that along with visuals of the billboard that so amazingly symbolizes many of the themes.
3) Carey Mulligan. I knew walking into this that I was going to like Carey Mulligan in her portrayal of Daisy Buchanan. If you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan, and Mulligan stars in one of the best episodes “Blink.” If you haven’t seen that episode or watched Doctor Who, then I am required by fandom law to advise that the episode does not tie into a huge plot and is worth watching as a stand alone episode.
In fact, go watch the episode now. It’s in Season 3 of Doctor Who and all on Netflix watch instantly. I’ll wait here a few moments so you can report back how much you love that episode. Seriously, go watch it!
Not so goods:
1) Excessive use of ‘Old Sport”. Every English major in the world would have been writing angrily on blogs had they not used “Old Sport” in Gatsby’s dialogue. Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job in his portrayal, but it felt like “Old Sport” was said a hell of a lot more than the book. I could be not recalling the book entirely well since it’s been 2-3 years since my last read, but the movie definitely said it a few too many times. Not the end all, be all, but just an added note to my review.
2) Some narration issues. Did anyone else notice that Spiderman was narrating this film? I kid, I kid. Tobey Maguire was great as Nick Carraway, but I did find some issues with the framework of his narration. While the novel is written from Nick’s perspective, and I really appreciate the films hard work to recreate that narration, it felt strange that it all started with him talking to a psychiatrist in the beginning.
As a reader, I do not recall the book mentioning Nick as unstable mentally in any way. It makes slight changes to his credibility though scholars would argue that the book already does that in other, more subtle ways.
3) There’s nothing else to complain about. I look forward to seeing a film adaptation of a novel so that I can ridicule the lack of dedication to stay “true” to the book. I barely have any complaints in this respect. I guess it’s not a bad thing, but give this blogger something to moan about! The characters were spot on between Tom’s subtle racist and sexist attitude to Jordan Baker’s cool and calm nature. Daisy maintained her very dependent personality and confusing comments that don’t really make any sense. She lacked any real backbone or ability to exist outside of a relationship to another person, just like Fitzgerald wrote it.