Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Great Gatsby

One of my new year resolutions this year is to read more. Currently I’m still trying to finish up Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which is quite challenging, but I’m determined to get through the whole thing.

The next one I’ll be tackling on is The Great Gatsby. I don’t know why but ever since I saw Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris, I had been reading more about the author. Then a couple of days ago I saw this trailer of Fitzgerald’s biographical drama Beloved Infidel, based on the memoir of his mistress Sheilah Graham. Toward the end of his life, Fitzgerald was writing for Hollywood studios to be able to afford the cost of an asylum for his wife Zelda, all the while battling against alcoholism. With Gregory Peck as the author and Deborah Kerr as Sheilah, I’m adding this one to my GP collection :)

Now, back to The Great Gatsby, which is considered Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Here are some of the reasons I’m looking forward to this film:

The story

In case you’re not familiar with the basic premise of the novel:

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

I can see why this novel was so well-received and has that timeless quality about it. This Washington Post reviewer said “… no American novel comes closer than “Gatsby” to surpassing literary artistry, and none tells us more about ourselves… Fitzgerald gives us a meditation on some of this country’s most central ideas, themes, yearnings and preoccupations: the quest for a new life, the preoccupation with class, the hunger for riches…”  Wow, I can’t wait to finally start reading it!

The Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio: Jay Gatsby
Carey Mulligan: Daisy Buchanan
Tobey Maguire: Nick Carraway
Joel Edgerton: Tom Buchanan

Luhrmann has assembled a pretty decent cast here. Before James Cameron made into a mega movie star, Luhrmann already tapped on Leo’s heartthrob potential in his modern Shakespeare adaptation Romeo + Juliet. I think Leo has the looks and perhaps the charm to pull off the aloof and elusive Jay Gatsby. He’s ok as Howard Hughes in The Aviator, but I’d say his performance was serviceable, not great. He’s grown quite a bit as an actor since though, so I’m hopeful he can do this role justice.

Apparently every young actress in Hollywood was vying for the role of Daisy, I mean check out this list of names per IMDb trivia: Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively, Abbie Cornish, Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, Eva Green, Anne Hathaway, Olivia Wilde, Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson were considered to play Daisy Buchanan. Well I’m certainly glad Mulligan got the role, the Brit certainly has the range to portray a young American debutant. As Daisy’s obsession with money and luxury doesn’t exactly make her a likable character, it’s critical to cast an an actress who’s inherently sympathetic as well as beautiful.

Now I think Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast as the quiet, reflective Midwesterner (from Minnesota to be exact, just like the novel’s author) who’s drawn to the fun, lavish lifestyle of the rich New Yorkers. Not sure if they’re going to use Nick as the narrator like in the novel, but I think Tobey’s got the right disposition to portray the inner conflict of this character. In a way he is Gatsby’s antithesis, which I find interesting as both Gatsby and Carraway seem to represent the dual personality of Fitzgerald himself.

Though Tom Buchanan is more of a supporting role, I think Edgerton has the chops to make the character memorable. I was really impressed with him in Warrior, so I’m glad he’s cast in more prominent projects.

The Director

The Great Gatsby has been filmed six times before, with the most famous one to date being the 1974 film version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I actually haven’t seen ANY adaptation of The Great Gatsby, though I might rent the 1974 version before this film opens.

This seventh motion picture adaptation will be at the helm of Aussie director Baz Luhrmann. I think Luhrmann would do well projects like this, he’s got an artistic eye for a costume drama, and he’s proven that he could craft an engaging romance (i.e. Romeo + JulietMoulin Rouge!). This is Luhrmann’s first big-budget production since the disappointment of the $130-million Australia. The Hugh Jackman/Nicole Kidman starrer was not a critical nor financial success, earning only a third of of the production cost. Luhrmann aimed for something akin to Gone With the Wind but it was more like the overblown Duel in the Sun. Let’s hope he’s learned some things from that experience to put to good use on this project.

The Setting

There is something so enchanting about the 1920s. No wonder Gil in Midnight in Paris is so obsessed with that era. The cars, the clothes, the jazz music… I guess they don’t call it the Roaring Twenties for nothing. A period of sustained economic prosperity in the wake of WWI and pre-Great Depression sure makes for intriguing tales of lavish proportion.

Moulin Rouge! won two Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction, and rightly so. The turn-of-the-century set pieces and clothing in that movie are gorgeous to behold. I have faith that Luhrmann would bring the same kind of artistry and meticulous craftsmanship to this film. As pictures from the set have surfaced, the cast look beautiful in their 1920s costumes.

The filming is currently taking place in Australia. According to the Daily Telegraph, Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin will re-create famous New York and Long Island landmarks from the 1920s.

Now, as beautiful as those set pieces are, it’s the story and performances that what would make a lasting impression. Which brings me to…

One area of concern…

Luhrmann is shooting this movie in 3D!! What, what?? Goodness me, I think Fitzgerald might be squirming in his grave. I think I can speak for most people that we want the right mix of visual appeal and rich human drama. Now, it’s highly likely that the movie would look good, but would the use of 3D actually help enhance the human drama?? I doubt it.

I think this quote from Dave Calhoun, film editor of Time Out, in this Guardian article said it best, “If you’re spending time worrying about how to make Gatsby’s hat poke out of the screen or Daisy’s necklace float in front of your eyes, what else are your spending time not worrying about,” he said. “Story? Dialogue? Pace? Acting? Character?”

I truly hope that Luhrmann could add some value by using 3D here, that it’d be worth the extra cost for us to see this. It’d be a shame if it actually distracts from the story, especially one as intriguing as The Great Gatsby! I guess we’ll find out on Christmas day this year.


Any thoughts on this film? Is this one a must-see or meh in your book? I’d also like to know if you’ve seen a previous adaptation of this famed novel.

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41 thoughts on “Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Great Gatsby

  1. I’ve never read the book or seen any of the film adaptations, so I don’t really know what to expect from the new version. I didn’t even know Luhrmann shot the film in 3D, that’s strange considering it’s not a special effects heavy film.

    If it gets a lot of good reviews then I might give it a rent.

    • I know you’re more into sci-fi/thriller books so you might not be interested in this, but maybe you should give it a shot? Yep, this film would look great in 2D so the 3D seems excessive, unless that Baz just wants to amp up the level of excess these nouveau riches are basking on.

  2. I’ve become kind of a Tobey fan after seeing Brothers, but since i’ve never read the book i don’t know if that is enough to make me see this one. And the 3D seems pointless.

  3. I love the book, and F. Scott Fitzgerald goes on the big fat list of “Really Awesome Alcoholic Writers” with guys like Bukowski and Hemingway. He led a fascinating life. I’ve never seen any of the previous versions. In fact, the only one I knew of was the Redford one, and it seems like it gets lukewarm reviews. It doesn’t strike me as the kind of movie that would translate as well to film.

    • Oh glad you’ve read it John. I’m excited to read it, so I’m hurrying up reading Anna Karenina but darn that book is massive, I’ve only about 46% done. I think Gatsby is gonna be a much easier read. Ahah, awesome alcoholic writers, too funny. Maybe that’s the secret to becoming famous authors? :)

    • Ahah Scott, so funny now you’ve jumped into the 3D bandwagon, considering how much you hated it before. I don’t mind 3D in general, depends on the film I guess, I just don’t think it’s suitable for this one, but we’ll see.

      • I haven’t jumped on the boat…. so much … as prepared to give it a chance. A bit like an unfaithful girlfriend, I am giving her a chance…. but if she lets down…. ooooh she is in for trouble!!

  4. I didn’t read the novel but the star cast is the one that is luring me into this movie. Especially, Amitabh Bachchan is debuting in Hollywood with this movie. So,definitely going to watch how it goes for him. Ruth, can you tell me how important is Meyer Wolfsheim role in the novel?

    • Hello again! Yeah the cast is quite attractive, but the story actually is more of a bigger draw for me. Oh I didn’t know about Amitabh, that’s cool. Well I haven’t read the novel so I can’t tell you how big Meyer’s role is.

  5. As I said when I wrote about ‘Hugo,’ I think we’re gonna start seeing more 3D films like this – i.e., non-genre flicks. It’s already happening, in fact, with films like ‘Pina,’ ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams,’ and now this. I have no idea what could be gained from making ‘Gatsby’ 3D, but this sort of thing is what we could be headed towards.

    Let us know what you thought of ‘Anna Karenina,’ BTW – it’s one of my favorite classic books.

    • This trend worries me… I mean ticket prices are already so darn expensive, now we have to pay extra for unnecessary 3D??! I might just wait until this arrives in the $3 cinema, though I’ve never seen a 3D movie there so maybe the price would be higher than that too :(

      Well so far I enjoy AK, though I’m more interested when it’s about Vronsky and Anna, but Tolstoy likes to go on and on about the supporting characters, no wonder the book is 800+ pages long!

  6. I saw the 1974 Version of The Great Gatsby – I even wrote about the location of the mansion used which wasn’t on Long Island’s North Shore as portrayed in the book – but instead it was in Newport. R.I. in a mansion called Rosecliff. Another film – High Society with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby was also shot in the same mansion.

    Robert Redford had the role of Jay Gatsby, with Mia Farrow as Daisy, and Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway. I don’t think it was considered a great film – but as far as capturing the era (the clothes, the cars, the fabulous homes, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous of the time it was perfect.

    My piece was called Cocktails on the Verandah. You can read about those unreal homes at this link:

    http://jmmnewaov2.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/cocktails-on-the-verandah/

    As far as seeing this new version of the novel/film – I’m disappointed that it will be in 3D – seems unnecessary – but I won’t miss it.

    Thanks for all your great work – I’m a subscriber to your blog.

    JustMeMIke

    • Hi Mike, thanks for the great info! I LOVE the photos you include on the post, WOW, look at that mansion! Hmmm, sounds like the 1974 version is more style over substance, I hope this one won’t repeat it. I might check it out just to marvel at the set pieces though.

      Hey thanks for subscribing, I really appreciate it!!

  7. Since I saw pictures of this movie come up, I’ve been very exciting to see this movie! I love the look of the 20s and I think they look great in their costumes.

    I’m really excited about seeing Tobey Maguire in a bigger role. I haven’t seen him around for a while, so that’s exciting.

    And wow, that is QUITE the list of actresses vying for the role of Buchanan. Pretty crazy! I think they picked the right girl.

    I haven’t actually read the book (OR seen any of the adaptations!), so I am already making a resolution to read the book before the movie comes out.

    Also, I can imagine DiCaprio is HAVING it with the 3D. I heard he wasn’t a big supporter of Titanic 3D. I mean, it’s already been done, and now they’re putting it in 3D? I’m sure he isn’t thrilled about The Great Gatsby being shot in it either. I know I think it’s a just a little ridiculous.

    • Hi Kris, yeah the 20s is a pretty awesome era isn’t it? I haven’t seen Tobey in anything lately either, and it’s interesting that he and Leo are best buds, surprised that they haven’t worked together more often.

      Glad to hear Leo’s not supporting the Titanic 3D idea, I think it’s just insulting to those who were/are affected by the tragedy. I mean, really why see such suffering in 3D??? It’s bad enough to see ‘em in 2D. I tell ya, greed rules in Hollywood!

  8. The list of young actress vying for the role of Daisy reads quite funny especially Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway. Think they did a good job with choosing Mulligan.

    Happy reading!
    I

    • Yeah that’s quite something isn’t it? I mean, Jessica Alba??? No way in heck could she ever do it justice and sorry but neither would Scar-Jo. Yeah I’m VERY glad they went w/ Mulligan.

  9. If it is in 3D I am not watching it as I would leave fancy gadgets where they belong in action films as this isn’t. I remember the one with Redford and Farrow though it was a long time ago I may refresh my memory soonish. As I do love the era this film was within but don’t like new filmalkers trashing classic works for profit.

    • You said it Stella, we don’t need fancy gadgets to enjoy a good story!! I sure hope Baz appreciates the beauty of the story enough not to ‘trash’ it like you said. I like his work in Moulin Rogue.

  10. I read the book and it is great, I am now playing on getting The Beauty and the Damned. As for the movie, it does look fantastic- everything with Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton is good for me!
    BTW, I understand the struggle of reading Anna Karenina or classics in general, I am currently reading Les Miserables and trust me, it is much harder- 1600 pages!

    • Whoa, Les Miserables?? I don’t think I have the endurance to tackle that :D Good for you Diana.

      The thing though, Tom Buchanan is not a likable character but I’m sure Joel would still make him quite charming.

  11. This looks like it has tons of potential but I’m worried about Baz Luhrmann who has been really up and down over the years I thought. Fantastic cast indeed but hopefully, all these flashy aspects don’t take precedent over good story-telling.

  12. I am very, very excited for this film. I’ve never read The Great Gatsby but it certainly sounds like something I’d enjoy.

    Baz has assembled a great cast – I can’t get enough of Carey Mulligan at the moment and I know that Maguire and DiCaprio are close in real life so that should come across well on screen.

    I’m not sure about the 3D aspect, though… Like Castor I hope it doesn’t over shadow good story telling.

    My resolution was to read more but so far this year my total is still a big, fat zero! I’ve halfway through my first book, though. Good going with Anna Karenina, Ruth. From what I’ve heard about it, it can be tough going.

    • The Great Gatsby is a fascinating look into a world few of us would ever experience. Glad you’re a fan of Carey. I really like her in In Education and Never Let Me Go, she’s got such a magnetic presence without being overbearing.

      Hey, are you writing a book Claire?? Or you mean reading your first book? Which is it?

      • Oh no, no, no, reading my first book of the year :P

        Writing a book is something I’d like to do in the future actually. I’m in magazine publishing but I’d love to move into book publishing.

        • Ah I see. Oh that’s cool that you’re in magazine publishing! Well when you’re moving into book publishing maybe I can ask you about getting my novel published, that is if I could ever get around to finishing it.

  13. I’m excited yet nervous about this film because it’s my favorite book in American literature, but I find the 3D aspect disconcerting. Also, I’m looking out for “Beloved Infidel” because I will be doing a spotlight on films about F. Scott Fitzgerald in December as part of my “Films About Writers” series. So I’m praying that TCM does a Gregory Peck day with this film included before then.

    • I’m getting Beloved Infidel after I saw the trailer, I just had to! :D Yeah that’d be a good one to feature for your ‘Films About Writers’ series.

  14. Carey Mulligan seems to be everywhere at the moment. Loved her in Drive but that’s the only of her films I’ve seen. I missed her breakthrough in An Education but from the shape of things present and to come, she seems to be carving out a pretty little niche for herself alongside some of Hollywood’s brightest stars. I’ll have to wiki the Great Gatsby, have no idea what it’s about (a crime I’m sure!). But I am definitely enticed by that cast. Thanks for shining the Flix-light on this one for me Ruth! I’m trying to moderate my reactions to films being shot in 3D. I mean, it just doesn;t seem to be going away, does it? And with films like the Hobbit, Tin Tin 2 and countless others all set to be shot in 3D, I suppose we’ll have just have to swallow it. It’ll get better though, right?

    • You should check out An Education, Ronan, I saw that months after everybody else did too, but it really was good. Well I did write the premise of The Great Gatsby here, but if you want more info on it, here’s the Wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby

      I don’t mind 3D per se, it’s just odd to see it done for a dramatic piece like this one but we’ll see I guess.

  15. Pingback: Checking Out the “Happy-Haps!” (1/19) « The Focused Filmographer

  16. What a coincidence – I just rented the 1974 version :).
    The new film certainly looks promising, even though Australia was just kinda okay. Di Caprio and Mulligan are two wonderful actors, and I’m curious to see how they work as a couple.
    … But 3D? Ah, come on, Luhrmann, not you too!

    • What did you think of the Robert Redford version?? I might rent it before this one comes out. I’m curious about how Baz will transform Australia for the set of this movie… and yeah, that 3D thing worries me too.

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