They’re a rotten crowd…You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.
– Nick Carraway’s parting words to Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby
If you have not read F.Scott Fitzgerald’s so-called masterpiece The Great Gatsby, you’re not likely to be able to make much sense of this movie.
The wild, overflowing parties, the music, the huge mansions, the flashy fast cars and the repeated “old sport” are bound to throw you off and leave you bewildered.
Not Worth It
Considering its exalted position in the pantheon of American literature, I read The Great Gatsby about a year back when news broke of Amitabh Bachchan snagging a bit role in the film.
The 1925 novel has some appeal.
Admittedly, the prose is decent and there’s a certain style that might find favor with some readers . But I found there was not much by way of a plot or character development and concluded the 180-page book was a triumph of exaggerated style over substance.
And the story of Great Gatsby, as the noted essayist and critic H.L.Mencken rightly put it in 1925, is “somewhat trivial.”
In my not so humble opinion, the book does not deserve its current status as a classic. In Fitzgerald’s time, the book was not the success it is today.
This week, I picked up the book again to see if I’d missed something in my first reading. No, my opinion of Fitzgerald’s book did not change even after the second reading.
Vladimir Nabokov may have exaggerated when he pronounced Great Gatsby ‘terrible” but the novel is certainly not worth making into a movie five times (four times on the big screen and once on TV).
Given my unfulfilled expectations in Fitzgerald’s novel, I went to the movie with low hopes.
Alas, the movie failed to come up even to the level of the book.
The latest film version of Great Gatsby features Leonardo DiCaprio, Amitabh Bachchan, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton et al.
With the novel, you, at least, have a clear sense of the events, the principal characters and the few oddballs that liven up things a bit.
The movie, on the other hand, is all a chaotic whirl marked by pedestrian performances.
The Great Gatsby is essentially a love story set in 1922, a period referred to as the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age.
The setting for both the book and the movie is the north shore of Long Island, an area much familiar to me.
But the movie was shot almost entirely in Australia, home of director Baz Luhrmann. So you’re not likely to recognize any of the Long Island or Queens landmarks you know. Looks like they’ve merged cheesy computer graphics to cheat us into believing it’s Long Island, Queens and Manhattan.
Disappointing most of all is Leonardo DiCaprio as the principal character, Jay Gatsby.
Leo seems far too stiff and nervous in the title role.
Even his frequent “old sport” lacked an authentic ring.
Of the five main characters, only Joel Edgerton (playing Tom Buchanan) was endurable, but only some of the time.
There’s not much to be said about Carey Mulligan (Daisy) or Tobey Maguire (the narrator Nick Carraway).
Neither left the faintest impression on me.
The movie follows the book. Well, mostly.
In a departure from the book, the narrator Nick Carraway is shown admitted in a sanatorium after leaving New York and returning to his home in the West.
The camera work of Simon Duggan is impressive here and there but by no means eye candy.
What About Amitabh Bachchan?
Much has been made by Indians of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan’s role in the film.
Bachchan plays the Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim, Gatsby’s senior partner in crime.
Although Bachchan’s is a short role with little screen time, he does leave some impact.
In any case, I’m grateful the old fart didn’t screw up.
Fitzgerald’s book has a subtlety that director Baz Luhrmann failed to capture in the film.
There was not much of a response for the late night show Thursday.
The majority of the 30-odd people who showed up were likely those who’d read the book. I overheard discussion among some viewers while exiting and got the impression they were not too thrilled either.
To me, Great Gatsby the film turned out to be an underwhelming production of an overrated book.