I had mixed feelings about them doing a remake of the 1974 classic version of The Great Gatsby……after all, I loved the ’74 version and saw it at least a gazillion times – maybe more! I questioned them choosing Leonardo DiCaprio to play Gatsby – he is no Robert Redford – and who could possibly play Daisy better than Mia Farrow!!!??? But, I was still drawn to it…..every time I saw the trailers, I got excited……when I saw the extended trailer at the theater when I saw 42, I knew I had to see it – regardless of my concern that it might be a huge disappointment for me! So, Saturday was the day…….I had several errands to do and things to take care of, so I decided to do most of them in Brockport so I could get a pedicure and see the movie after I got my business taken care of.
First, I want to comment on the Brockport theater. I used to go there a LOT and always thought it was a quaint little theater and there aren’t many little small town theaters around, anymore. Since I’ve been back home, there hasn’t been any movies playing there that interested me, so it was the first time in many, many years that I’ve been in that particular theater. I was excited to see the movie there – I think one of the many times I saw the 1974 version in a theater was there in Brockport and it just seemed like a perfect setting to see it in! First, the matinée price was $5.50……WOW…..I haven’t seen a $5.50 matinée at a theater in years – that’s what a matinee SHOULD cost (or less) – and the evening showings are only $7.50! But, I was very sad to see that the building has been “let go” – paint peeling off the walls and other visible disrepair – what a shame!!! They have split it into three very small screening rooms, so it makes for a nice, intimate setting and the price is right……so, I will look forward to seeing more movies there in the future, but was so disappointed to see it not taken care of like it used to be!
Now, for my review: Like I said, I was concerned that I would be let down by this new version. The 1974 cast was so perfect – Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Lois Chiles…….all brought F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic characters to life exactly the way you would want them to be portrayed! I’m not a huge Leonardo DiCaprio fan – I like some of his characters, but he doesn’t really grab me over all! And I don’t care a lot for Tobey Maguire, either – again, I’ve enjoyed some of his work, but not really a fan. Would they ruin Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway for me? And who is this Carey Mulligan they chose to play Daisy? I also heard that they made some significant changes to the story – expanded it – not sure how I was going to feel about that! I know there was a lot more details in the book than were included in the 1974 version, but were they really necessary for the movie? Obviously, they weren’t essential to make the 1974 version great – why would they be necessary now? I was nervous…….I really felt like I had to see this movie, but didn’t want it to cloud my memory of the version I loved so much!
As it turns out, over all, I wasn’t disappointed – I enjoyed this version…..to a point. But, there were parts that did disappoint me – a lot! Would I recommend it to others? Yes – it was good, especially if you never saw the 1974 version, and even if you did. Will I see it again? No – I love to see movies that really touch me over and over again, but this one didn’t touch me, so I have no interest in seeing it again. That’s not to say I didn’t like it — I did — it just wasn’t great!
The story, for those who may not know, is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby. It is set in the midst of the roaring 20′s with all the parties and frivolousness that era is known for. Jay Gatsby is a somewhat reclusive millionaire who hosts lavish parties at his home in hopes that his long-lost true love, Daisy Buchanan, will wander in one night. The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbor and Daisy’s cousin, who gets caught up in all the excitement and drama he becomes fascinated with, along with Daisy’s friend, Jordan Baker. Daisy is now married to millionaire, Tom Buchanan, who quite blatantly cheats on her with other women – in particular, Myrtle Wilson, wife of gas station owner, George Wilson. Gatsby does everything he can to arrange a meeting and rekindle the love between him and Daisy. As with most stories of unrequited love, there is passion and tragedy all wrapped up together.
What I liked: Most of the movie was pretty much word for word with the 1974 version – I found myself finishing sentences in my head – they didn’t change the essence of the story at all. I also thought the actors did a pretty good job – I’ll have some negative comments in the next section, but over all, they were good. Specifically, it looked like DiCaprio studied Redford’s portrayal – he had many of the same looks and mannerisms. They went into a little more detail about Gatsby’s past in flash backs - how he went from dirt poor to war veteran to mega millionaire – I liked learning more about him – the previous version alluded to it, but never really offered up a full explanation – but, even though this is a plus, I will also include a view of it as a negative in the next section.
What I didn’t like: Right at the opening of the movie, I was sure my fears were confirmed – they opened with Nick Carraway in a sanatorium for alcoholism and insomnia! As part of his therapy, the doctor has him write about his memories of why he ended up there. The previous version was told through Nick’s eyes, but this was more of a narration with hand written words fading across the screen at certain times throughout the movie. I wasn’t pleased with the way they treated the telling of the story by Nick or that he does it from a sanatorium. They focused a lot more on the drinking and sex (don’t get me wrong – there was no nudity or sex scenes, but it was a LOT more obvious in the story line) and made most of the background characters into a caricature of people of those times – they were mostly animated (not animation - more like over exaggerated – animated) fools – for instance, several scenes showed cars over loaded with more people than it can hold, standing and hanging out with glasses and bottles of champagne while the cars speed and weave in and around traffic – just seemed a little too silly for me and kind of took the credibility of the story away, sort of! There were a couple of scenes where RAP music was playing and one night club scene where the stage dancers were dancing like the hip-hop dancers do now – you know, that humpy butt shake thing that Beyoncé, J Lo, and others do! NOT something you would have seen in the 1920′s! Again, that cut into the credibility of the story and the times! While I said before that I liked that they expanded on Gatsby’s past, I didn’t really like that they focused heavily on his gangster, bootlegger ties – that could have stayed as the vague mentions they did in the previous version – didn’t have to be so in your face – he’s supposed to be the gentle, shy guy who just wants to marry his sweetheart!
What I HATED: The ending!!! The previous version went beyond Gatsby’s death and funeral a little – his father showed up, so you knew he wasn’t dead, after all, and that Gatsby kept in touch with him and was generous with him – didn’t just turn his back on his dirt poor family! This version ends just after the funeral – where Carraway states he called all over to find family and friends to attend his funeral and “no one came – I’m all he had”……..didn’t like that AT ALL!!! AND…..they left out most of the touching love scenes between Daisy and Gatsby…..isn’t that the whole point of the story? They left it as a vague reference! Expanded on parts that I thought were totally unnecessary and left out parts that are essential to the story!
Now for the character comparisons: While the characters were essentially the same in both versions, there were some aspects that made them very different at the same time. Although I thought DiCaprio acted a great deal like Redford did, he took it in a more disturbing direction. Redford played Gatsby as a shy, but strong character, reclusive, but friendly – he was obviously anxious about his first meeting with Daisy after so many years apart, but he was cool about it. DiCaprio looked more scared, than anxious and he was even sweating. There were several scenes, including the one where he was awaiting his first meeting with Daisy, that he had pained looks on his face – very different from the cool demeanor of Redford’s portrayal. Mia Farrow’s Daisy was very demure and child-like - frail. Mulligan’s Daisy was more like those silly fools that I spoke about earlier and she seemed more strong-willed – definitely out of character for the lovely Daisy. Sam Waterston did a MUCH better job as Nick Carraway – he was intrigued, fascinated, and acted like a kid in the circus, but kept his head about him. Maguire’s Carraway was drunk a lot and seemed much more immature. The other characters were more comparable – subtle differences, as with any time you have two different actors portraying the same character, but nothing as glaring as with the three main characters.
Bottom line………I’m not at all sorry I went to see it – I liked it, mostly! And, like I said, I would recommend it! But, I won’t see it again — in fact, I came home and streamed the Redford version from Amazon to put it back in my head as the last one I saw! I rate it a B – good, but not great!