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This is the fifth adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beautifully written novel, of love, affluence, ambition and disillusionment.  I wouldn’t say that I was expecting not to enjoy it, but I was prepared to be disappointed – but how wrong I was!  To my surprise, this was unquestionably my favourite adaptation out of those that I have seen so far, and to my even greater surprise, I also thought that Leonardo DiCaprio was the best Gatsby yet.

As anyone might expect from a Baz Luhrmann production, this film is drenched in colour, noise and flamboyance, which works perfectly when depicting the debauchery and affluence on show, especially at Gatsby’s famous parties.  It’s very stylised, and has a great soundtrack courtesy of Jay-Z, who was also a producer on the film.  (As the story is set in the 1920s, a Jay-Z soundtrack shouldn’t work on paper, but it really comes together to great effect.)

Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as Gatsby, bringing a real depth to the character.  I also loved Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.  In comparison to Mia Farrow, who was so irritating in the 1974 film, and Mira Sorvino, who was probably too sympathetic in the 2001 version, Mulligan really shines.  She portrays Daisy’s shallowness well, but also lends an air of regretful nostalgia for what her character let slip out of her grasp years earlier.  Elizabeth Debicki played Jordan Baker, pretty much exactly how I imagined Jordan to be when I read the book, and Joel Edgerton was superb as the cold and cruel Tom Buchanan.

Nick Carraway, who as always, narrates the story was played by Tobey Maguire, and he was great.  (My favourite Nick is still sam Waterston, playing opposite Robert Redford as Gatsby, and Paul Rudd also did an excellent job.)  In this version, Carraway is in hospital being treated for alcoholism, and at the urging of his doctor, writes down the story of Gatsby and the events of that fateful summer.  I wasn’t sure initially how this new approach would play out, but it does work, and allows the character to read more passages from the book than Carraway did in previous versions.

Only a couple of minor niggles – Gatsby’s funeral was not shown at all, but Carraway says that nobody but him attended.  In the book, and in previous versions, Gatsby’s father shows up for the funeral and it’s a touching scene.  Additionally, a small character known as ‘Owl Eyes’ also attends the funeral.  I would have liked to have seen this in the film, but overall there is so much to enjoy that it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall excellence.

I really enjoyed this film.  I would recommend other adaptations to fans of the novel, but I would recommend this version to anybody.  Well worth seeing.

Year of release: 2013

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Producers: Baz Luhrmann, Bruce Berman, Jay-Z, Barrie M. Osborne, Lucy Fisher, Catherine Knapman, Catherine Martin, Anton Monsted, Douglas Wick

Writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel), Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce

Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Elizabeth Debicki, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1974 film adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2000 film adaptation.

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This is the 1974 film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated book of the same name, set in the roaring 1920s.  Robert Redford plays the title character, Sam Waterston is Nick Carraway (Gatsby’s neighbour, and the cousin of Daisy Buchanan) and Mia Farrow is Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s love.

The basic plot, for anyone unfamiliar with it, revolves around Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic and rich man, who everyone knows of but nobody really knows.  He throws lavish parties at his mansion, but rarely attends them himself.  While the rich elite of Long Island are happy to accept his hospitality, they are even happier to gossip about their host, and speculate on where he got his money.

As Gatsby’s neighbour, Nick becomes drawn into his world, and is perhaps the only person who sees Gatsby for who he is, and is unconcerned with gossip.  Gatsby and Daisy had a relationship years before, but she is now unhappily married to the philandering and unkind Tom Buchanan.  When she and Gatsby meet again, they rekindle their relationship, but circumstances conspire to keep them apart…

As adaptations go, this one is pretty faithful to the book.  However, while I really enjoyed the novel, the movie felt flat in parts.  Although many viewers felt otherwise, I thought that Redford did a fine job of playing Gatsby (and even manages to wear a pink suit without looking ridiculous) – he is certainly handsome and charismatic enough for the part.  However, the actor who stood out most for me was Sam Waterston as Nick.  He was also probably the most sympathetic character in the whole story, and definitely the only one I would probably want to be friends with.  Less successful was Mia Farrow’s portrayal of Daisy; however Daisy was portrayed as a superficial and annoying character in the book, so in that sense, the character depicted here stayed true to the original.

While I’m strictly a jeans and t-shirt person in real life, I do love to see glamour in movies, and this film certainly delivered on that front.  It is populated with wealthy and successful (if entirely shallow) characters, and I loved all the outfits and opulence.  Superficially, it certainly looks good, and captures the era well.

Overall, this is not a disastrous film at all, and there’s some enjoyable parts. However, I can’t say that it matched up to the fantastic novel on which it is based.  Definitely worth seeing though.

Year of release: 1974

Director: Jack Clayton

Writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald (book), Francis Ford Coppola

Main cast: Sam Waterston, Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 2000 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2013 movie adaptation.

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Quite a remarkable book, which manages to encompass a wonderful story in surprisingly few pages (less than 180).

The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man who rents a house next to the mansion owned by the famous and mysterious Jay Gatsby.  Nick and Gatsby become friends, with Nick attending some of the famous parties which are held with regularity at Gatsby’s home.  Although popular, the parties are always populated by people who hardly know Gatsby (indeed, thoughout the novel it becomes apparent that Gatsby has few people in his life who he could call friends), and who like to speculate about his lifestyle.

Thrown into the mix is Daily Buchanan, Nick’s cousin, who shares a history with Gatsby.  Daisy is unhappily married to Tom Buchanan, a bullish businessman, who is embroiled in an affair with another woman.

Such a situation can never end well, and throughout the telling of the story it becomes apparent that Gatsby does not seem to be a man destined for happiness.

This book is simply wonderful; the writing is beautiful and almost poetic, with a sense of melancholy.  The characters – in particular Daisy  – are very well drawn. There is more here than the straightforward plot – this is a novel about dreams and illusions, and discontent.  It’s a fabulous read – I wish I had read it years ago, but I am certain that I will rereading it in years to come.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of the 1974 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2000 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2013 movie adaptation.

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