"The Great Gatsby" fails to adapt a great book



Where exactly did Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" (★) go wrong? Where to begin? This had all the makings of a great movie with its talented cast -Leo, Carey, Tobey !- and a visionary filmmaker at the helm. Where did it all go wrong? Where to begin? Oscar was supposed to be calling come nomination time but now, based on poor reviews, it will likely fail to get any noms safe for a few costume and design attributes. Well, I'll start off by saying that visually "The Great Gatsby" is a treat, Luhrmann has always had a talent for creating visually arresting images just look at his "Moulin Rouge" for a great example. The problem is that the source material didn't need the visual overkill. The novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald had a delicacy to it that Luhrmann completely forgets. Hell, the failed 1974 adaptation -starring Robert Redford- looks more competent compared to Luhrmann's botched, ambitious film. It's a real shame. Luhrmann takes risks that just don't work. He uses a hip hop inspired soundtrack by Jay Z that feels out of place, he miscasts Carey Mulligan as Gatsby's dream girl Daisy, he -uninspiringly- makes it a 3D film and -most importantly- he loses the heart and soul of Fitzgerald's great American novel.

It isn't easy adapting a literary masterpiece into a feature length film. Brian De Palma's "The Bonfire Of The Vanities" and Jonathan Demme's "Beloved" come to mind. Luhrmann's "Gatsby" belongs in the long list -and I mean long- of botched attempts. It isn't surprising that a great American novel translates terribly into celluloid. Sometimes you just need to leave it alone, sometimes a film just can't capture the raw, emotional power that words can bring. The first half of "Gatsby" works terribly, it presents us to an artificial, overtly glamorized and sentimental world that is far from what Fitzgerald first intended. Of course Luhrmann is trying to put his stamp on the story but some things are best left untouched. The setup is brutal but in the film's second half Luhrmann goes more for emotion, character development and his film starts to loosen up a little and feel more real, more intimate. Too little, too late. I wish I could have seen what Dicaprio's Jay Gatsby saw in Daisy, but I didn't. Carey Mulligan is terribly miscast and looks out of place.

I won't be be going any further into the negatives of literary adaptations, instead I've decided to make a list of the films that actually made good on the promise of their source material. These 10 films proved to be more than just a great book, they became a great movie. Some of these were even better than the book. Yes, it does happen. Albeit, only once in a while. Here are some examples -

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
The Godfather
Apocalypse Now
A Clockwork Orange
The Silence Of the Lambs
The Lord Of The Rings
Schindler's List
No Country For Old Men
The Shawshank Redemption
2001: A Space Odyssey
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