As a lit major, it was pretty much required that I go see the Gatsby movie. As someone who has never been 100% in love with The Great Gatsby or Fitzgerald, I was a little skeptical. I kind of suspected the only thing I’d like about the movie was the fact that whenever Toby Maguire spoke I could just close my eyes and pretend that he was Spiderman again.
But actually, I was incredibly impressed. Maybe it’s just because I’m not as deeply attached to Gatsby as I am to, say, Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre, but it was probably the best film to movie adaptation I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s because the novel already lends itself to extravagance and drama so that the director didn’t feel the need to do my least favorite thing ever–adding in a bunch of nonsense that never happened to make things more “exciting.” Regardless, the movie held my attention almost the entire time, and I never found myself grumbling about massive changes between text and screen that disrupted the meaning of the book or my enjoyment of the film.
That being said, I’m me, so I do have a few complaints.
This may be just a Great Gatsby in general complaint, but WE GET IT ABOUT THE GREEN LIGHT. Seriously. It’s a symbol. It’s a light. At the end of a dock. It’s green. And it represents unreachable dreams, etc. About half way through the movie I wanted to hit someone because of all the references to and moments featuring the green light. But I definitely feel that way when reading, as well. So maybe someone needed to sit Fitzgerald down and give him a stern talking to about symbols and how it’s better if they’re understated so your readers don’t feel like you’re hitting them over the head with a green lantern or something.
Similarly, there was a bit TOO much emphasis put on the (admittedly very important) line “Can’t relive the past? Of course you can!” that made me burst out laughing, which isn’t exactly what I think Fitzgerald or our director had in mind. Maybe panning in on Leo’s face there was a bit much, a bit “HEY GUYS THIS LINE IS IMPORTANT” for my tastes. I mean, I know not everyone has read Gatsby, but I think it’s pretty easy to “get” it without someone dragging you by the hand (not that, of course, Fitzgerald doesn’t do that a bit himself anyway).
All in all, however, the film was gorgeous and very true to its text, even with the little changes and additions that were made (for instance, Nick really becomes more of a character in the movie, which was interesting but not necessarily problematic).
As my friend Erin and I discussed on the way back, I wish all books got this kind of treatment when they were being adapted to the screen. The project really found the right budget, director, and cast to make things work the way that they should in order to bring the author’s words to life, rather than piggybacking cheaply off of them.
The take away from this lovely little rant of mine? Go and see Gatsby. Just come prepared to see a LOT of that green light, and if all else fails, close your eyes and pretend that you’re watching Spiderman.