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home : columnists and contributors : columnists and contributors May 24, 2016

5/15/2013 12:01:00 AM
Movie Review: The Great Gatsby
Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh

The Great Gatsby has been committed to film at least four times prior to this; the most famous version is from the seventies with Robert Redford as the lead and Mia Farrow as the object of his desire. The most recent remake was in 2000; I'm guessing it wasn't very successful. This telling has done better at the box office behind the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Even though I am still not a fan of remakes, I am happy to see wonderful stories like this one and last year's Anna Karenina brought to a generation who will probably not read them unless required to do so. Since it is one of my favorite stories, I'm happy to see it reaching a larger audience.

The Robert Redford version was beautifully shot, in a less frenetic, languid telling. Redford was believable as the single minded romantic and Mia Farrow was Daisy. DiCaprio does a good job as Gatsby, though his take is a little less romantic and a little more determination and while Carey Mulligan wasn't bad as Daisy, she didn't have the air about her that Farrow did.

There were two casting assignments in the seventies version that I had a problem with and both show major improvement here. I didn't care for Bruce Dern's Tom Buchanan or for Karen Black's Myrtle; they just didn't fit what the book had put in my head. Joel Edgerton as Tom and Isla Fisher as Myrtle do much better jobs with those roles, you can even feel a little empathy for Tom here whereas Dern's version just irritated me.

Two big issues with this movie, though. First, I didn't like the modern music in the soundtrack; if you are doing a period film, stick with the music of the day, especially when there is such great music to use. I understand the reason behind using the music they did, but I didn't care for it. Second, why would you shoot a movie like this in 3-D?

They do stick quite closely to the book, but they change the story to have Nick (Tobey Maguire) tell the story later, looking back. They leave out, among other things, Nick's meeting with Gatsby's father, which I found to be one of the most poignant moments in the book and they imply far more details about Gatsby's nefarious activities.

I don't understand why such a short book has to be such a long movie, this one, like the Redford version, is about two and a half hours long and they both drag in spots.

This is rated PG 13, there are some sexual situations and while there is no nudity, there are some "racy" shots. The profanity is quite mild and infrequent and there is not much in the way of violence. It does move quite slowly, though, and the themes are adult; smaller children will be bored to tears almost immediately.

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