One of the first things that struck me about “The Great Gatsby” was it’s size. It’s a teensy tiny book that I almost didn’t buy because it seemed like a waste of money, £7.99 for 113 pages! I’m not sure what I was expecting but I felt a little bit cheated right from the start because I’d heard so many good things about the book and couldn’t believe they could all fit into this dinky little book which is shorter than your average Mills & Boon. Despite my reservations I bought the book, and it ended up working out for me as I was able to read the book in a single sitting, the morning before I went to see the film, because obviously I couldn’t go and see the film without reading the book!
So, film or book, which side should you be on? Here are my thoughts:
After accepting how short “The Great Gastby” was, one of the first things that struck me about it was that it was a lot more readable than I had anticipated. It’s actually one of the most accessible books I’ve read from that era (including other books by Fitzgerald). What puts me off reading classics is that I always feel like they are so complicated or profound that I need to make notes just to keep up with them. “The Great Gatsby” is nothing like that. It’s sharp and to the point and wastes no space (hence the size). The first person narrative of Nick Carraway pulls you along and the basic plot is easy enough to follow- it’s like a baby classic! Unfortunately, I was expecting something a little bit more from this book; a little more meat on the bones, shall we say? I don’t know what you think but I’ve always been told that “The Great Gatsby” is F.Scott Fitzgerald’s greatest book, the way it has been built up in the press I was expecting nothing short of an epiphany after reading it!
Needless to say, this did not happen, at times I found it a little obvious and, dare I say it, flat. I found myself thinking ‘Ok, we get it, Gatsby’s not posh enough’ and wondering when something else was going to happen. This should have been, and to a certain extent was, a fascinating theme. I mean, Fitzgerald is basically calling the ‘American Dream’ false. Here we have our self made man, Jay Gatsby, who has built himself from dirt poor to filthy rich- in so many ways he’s the stereotype of the ‘American Dream’ only once he reaches the top, he finds out he’s still not good enough for America’s elite. That’s pretty scandalous stuff considering it seems to contradict all of the ideals you hear about American society. And it was interesting but the characters let it down, they are so 1 dimensional,they move around the novel like little mouthpieces for Fitzgerald’s angst. If someone had told me that “The Great Gatsby” was a satire I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Satire aims to hold up the follies and shortcomings of a person or society in order to try and bring about change. This is just what Fitzgerald does; he hold a light up to the hedonistic, superficiality of 1920s America and challenges it to be different. It’s much more powerful when you think of it that way don’t you think? As a satire it works, as a novel, it doesn’t.
So how about the film?
I try not to be led by what critics say about films but when a film is held back, and then held back again it’s hard not to let a little doubt creep in, and I don’t know about you, but I found myself wondering what was wrong with it. Nevertheless, I went to see it, in 2D, which may have been my first mistake. This film was so clearly made for 3D that it started to annoy me. Firstly because why on earth would they make “The Great Gatsby” in 3D? Secondly because it meant I couldn’t tell if it looked so much like a fake set because I wasn’t seeing it properly or if Baz Lurhmann did it deliberately to evoke the theme of the novel. If it’s the latter, that’s pretty inspired- but a niggling doubt tells me it was just because I saw it in 2D. One thing I did really like about it stylistically was the colour. Everything looked like that moment when “The Wizard of Oz” goes from black and white to colour. It’s that over-saturated, air-brushed, too bright to be real kind of colour and it gave the film a dream like quality that I thought really worked. Everything was TOO something- too crisp, too bright, too garish, too sparkly etc. It really emphasised the feeling of hedonism that saturated the whole film. That gets a big thumbs up from me.
Plus, Leonardo di Caprio’s performance…can we please just bow in the presence of greatness! It was amazing! He made Gatsby into this wistful, vulnerable, slightly psycho human being, he so totally inhabited the character, right down to the strange accent, that by the end I wasn’t think ‘oh look there’s Leo playing Gatsby’ at all. In fact, I liked his portrayal of Gatsby better than I liked the Gatsby Fitzgerald wrote in the book. The scene where Tom tells him he’ll never be good enough for Daisy was hands down the best moment of the film for me! Go Leo! Carey Mulligan also deserves a pat on the back for her Daisy. The novel didn’t give her, or the script writers, much to go on and I think she did well with what she had.
Now, however, it’s time to address the great big elephant in the room. You may have noticed him sitting in the corner…looking suspiciously like TOBEY MAGUIRE! Seriously, who picked Tobey Maguire for this film? I’ve seen more emotion coming for Kirsten Stewart impersonating a rock. Everything about him in this film just annoyed me; it’s like…if you could ignore him it would be a really good film, but you can’t because HE’S THE MAIN CHARACTER! I feel bad for saying it, but I have to because it’s true; he kind of ruined the film for me!
So there you have it. All in all both the book and the film get mixed reviews from me. I wasn’t blown away by the book, and although the film interpreted it quite well…it had Tobey Maguire the emotionless vacuum in it.
What do you think?
Did you read the book or see the film and love/hate them?
Am I just being too hard on poor Spidey?
Leave a comment and let me know!