It’s a daunting task to take a classic piece of literature and turn it into a successful, yet complementary, film adaptation. Baz Luhrmann takes on this filmmaking challenge by converting the beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of love and loss set in the 1920’s on a wild and roaring, if over adventurous, two-and-a-half hour ride into the lives of New York’s millionaires.
As a movie, The Great Gatsby remains faithfully loyal to the book, with little to no change. A small change in the movie includes how Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, ends up after the fateful summer he spent with the company of New York’s finest, including his cousin Daisy Buchanan, played by Carey Mulligan, her cheating husband, Tom, played by Joel Edgerton, and Nick’s mysterious millionaire neighbor, Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo Dicaprio. The movie includes all the twists and turns of the novel, and leaves in key iconic images that Fitzgerald described in great detail within the pages.
Luhrmann’s adaptation is big and noisy, much like the 1920’s itself. Gatsby’s famed boisterous and opulent parties take the main stage in the first half of the film, with a heavy focus on the mysteriousness of Gatsby’s past compared to the frenzy of the dancing and drinking that ruled his festivities. The second half is a quieter affair, with the tortured romance between Gatsby and Daisy playing out with disastrous results. Even though the ending of Gatsby won’t be a spoiler for many people of the novel’s popularity, it’s still a chilling experience as you see Gatsby’s world fall apart with the pressure of wanting to be the absolute best.
The best part of the film is the killer soundtrack. Instead of using typical jazz music that defined the era, Luhrmann decided to incorporate a modern representation of the 21st Century. During scenes of Gatsby’s wild parties, Jay-Z & Kanye West rap over the festivities, while Lana Del Rey’s anguished voice gives a pivotal scene between Daisy and Gatsby an extra boost of emotion. The unconventional choice in music helped give The Great Gatsby a clever modern edge that helps the films spark come alive.
I give The Great Gatsby an A- for capturing the tormented love affair between Daisy and Gatsby, and also for having an unconventional soundtrack the brought the movie to life.
The Great Gatsby is rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.