Review: The Great Gatsby



Over the weekend, I ventured out to see The Great Gatsby.  It might be one of the first times I ever saw a movie on its opening weekend (except Titanic, of course!).  Given the movie’s basis on classic literature and an author I admire, I felt compelled to write a review.  SPOILER ALERT: I will talk about some variations between the book and the movie!

Overall, I really enjoyed the film.  It was a unique blend of historic and modern nostalgia flirting with a love for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing and a talented filming style.  Warning: If you are looking for a true-to-the-times and true-to-the-book flick, this might not be the one for you.

I read nothing of the film prior to seeing it so I was surprised to see Jay Z’s name in the closing credits.  Google later informed me that he was responsible for “scoring” the film, which explains why many of his (& Beyonce’s) songs appear throughout its scenes (see not-true-to-the-times comment above).  I understand why some people might not appreciate the mixing of ages and the blending of 1920’s jazz-age beats with Jay Z’s 2001 hit “Izzo.”  For me, it displayed a refreshing comprehension of The Great Gatsby’s true religion: a showcasing of economic prosperity (dolla dolla bills y’all), flapper culture and bootlegging / illegal activity – themes still arguably persistent in our modern-day era.

Another distinct variation from the book is the missing relationship between Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) and Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki).  There are some scenes of mild flirtation, but movie-goers never witness a hint of an actual relationship between the two characters.  Omitting this love story was entirely acceptable to me especially given the complexity of the other love triangles throughout the film.  I’m not sure if it was this missing relationship link or the talented acting of Debicki, but Jordan ended up being my outright favorite character.  I found her ridiculous ambivalence to the insanity surrounding her life downright hilarious and thoroughly appreciated as a persistent comic relief throughout the scenes.

Secondly, I greatly appreciated the movie’s portrayal of Nick as the writer of the tale.  His quirky narration and passion for the Gatsby saga brought me a general sense of love and adoration for F. Scott Fitgerald’s writing style.  Some of my favorite quotes used in the movie (I loved that they used direct quotes from the book!) included the following:

  • “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” ~Nick
  • “I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” ~Daisy (regarding her daughter)
  • “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.” ~Nick (regarding Gatsby)
  • “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” ~Nick (describing Gatsby’s parties)
  • “It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.” ~Nick
  • “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” ~Nick (regarding advice from his father)
  • “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him” ~Nick (regarding Gatsby)
  • “The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.” ~Nick (describing Daisy)
  • “Life is much more successfully looked at from a single window.” ~Nick
  • “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” ~Nick
  • “She was feeling the pressure of the world outside and she wanted to see him and feel his presence beside her and be reassured that she was doing the right thing after all.” ~Nick (describing Daisy’s reaction to Gatsby)
  • “I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” ~Nick (this is arguably my favorite quote given that I think it sums up the main theme of the novel / movie)

Ultimately, it’s about time someone made a modern adaptation of the Gatsby novel.  I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics of the 1920’s carefree mindset intertwined with the 21st century’s love for grandeur.  If you’re looking for an entertaining film showcasing love for the American culture (“New York…” in Alicia Keys vocals) with a pleasing and talented cast, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is the one for you.

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