Saturday, May 11, 2013


        The Great Gatsby 3D was a big, enormously overdone, flashy spectacle, like a video game where you can't tell if the characters are actors or animation. It's F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby on steroids.
Which is ironic, because the book itself was so slim, crisp, and compact. But it was well cast, and Leonardo DiCaprio was a perfect Jay Gatsby. His love for Daisy is what drove him to be hugely wealthy, filling a vastly oversized mansion every weekend with hundreds of people that he didn't even know. He wore the most beautiful shirts that Daisy had ever seen, was 30 years old, handsome and rich beyond anyone's dreams, and his whole life was a lie. He would never be what Daisy and Tom were, old monied aristocrats. He was a bootlegger, born poor as dirt. Carrie Mulligan was wonderful as Daisy, desperately love with Gatsby....but in the end stayed with her cheating, bully of a husband. Tom Buchanan was played by Joel Edgerton, but I think that Bruce Dern in the 1974 version of the movie defined the role. Toby Maguire was an excellent Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book, and its heart and soul. In many scenes he reminded me of F. Scott himself. There are a few changes made for the sake of story telling, like Nick writing everything down from the Perkins Sanitarium, named for Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald's editor. I liked this device because actual phrases from the book were typed up on the screen, including the beautiful and memorable last few sentences.
         If you're a fan, you need to see this 2013 version. It's completely over the top, like all movies are now, and there are way too many car chases and party scenes, which seem to go on forever. The houses are too big, the editing is extremely stylized, and the 3D almost makes you dizzy. The scale of it seems out of whack. But the core of the book and the movie is a great story, and seeing it just makes me want to read it again for the umpteenth time. The soundtrack by Jay Z wasn't as bad as I expected, which was a relief, and there was even some Gershwin sprinkled in. I loved the opening credits, which were from the 1926 Jazz Age silent version of the film. Below is a lobby card from the original:

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was published in 1925. It's considered to be The greatest American novel, and is truly a masterpiece. Elegantly written, it is a spare 180 pages long, depending on what edition you read. It's narrated by Nick Carraway, who spends a summer on Long Island with his beautiful cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom Buchanan. They are old monied, East Coast upper class; and their neighbor, Jay Gatsby lives a lavish lifestyle that comes from bootlegging. Gatsby, who has been in love with Daisy since before the war (WWI) buys a house across the water from the Buchanans. The green light at the end of their dock on the North Shore is an image for the status that Gatsby could never attain.
    The Great Gatsby only sold 21,000 copies when it was published, and by 1937, it wasn't on a single bookstore shelf. Currently, it is the Number 1 book on It is taught in just about every high school in the United States, an irony that F. Scott would deeply appreciate. By the time he died alone in his apartment in Hollywood in 1940, his royalties for the year totaled $13.30. He was a broken man who couldn't even sell a script.
    There have been several movie versions of the book, and the current one, which opens on May 10th is in 3D, and stars Leonardo Dicaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan. I will definitely be there, and am hoping for the best. I hope it's a dazzling testament to this brilliant book.