The Life and Lies of Jay Gatsby

So I just spent the last two days watching 4 different versions of The Great Gatsby and as you can imagine, all 4 versions are very different and bring their own essence of the beloved novel to light. The novel, written in 1925, is and will always be my favorite novel. It’s a story about taking the present and desperately trying to make it into the past. It’s about greed, lavish parties and the ability to hold on to an effervescent dream that may have already slipped away through your fingers.

The Great Gatsby (1949), directed by Elliott Nugent

  • Starring Alan Ladd, Betty Field, and Macdonald Careygreatgatsbyposter1949

In this black and white, 92 min, adaptation of the novel, the biggest difference I noticed was that this film added more from Daisy’s perspective than in any other. Scenes capture her driving the car that actually runs down Mertle Wilson,  a scene with her confessing the crime to her husband Tom, and a final scene with her being present when Wilson confronts Tom about who was driving the car. I found these scenes to be unnecessary. Maybe I feel this way because I wasn’t really interested in her point of view since the book originally takes place from Nick Carroway’s point of view, or possibly because Daisy never actually admits to the crime. The other changes that I noticed were that Nick and Jordan Baker knew each other before they meet in that first scene at Daisy’s house and Jordan was also the only other person who came to Gatsby’s funeral and there is, in fact, no mention of Gatsby father. I, honestly, just couldn’t get past all of the changes that were made. It totally changed the story.

Verdict: 8/12

The Great Gatsby (1974), directed by Jack Clayton

  • Starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, and Sam WaterstonGREAT-GATSBY-THE-1974-006

I found this, 143 min, adaptation of the novel to be much more enjoyable than the previous one. However, I wasn’t completely taken by the casting. Don’t get me wrong, Robert Redford was a great Jay Gatsby, he had his total look of precision, money, and light in his eyes. The other actors, however, did not. I felt Mia Farrow’s Daisy Buchanan to be flat and unemotional. Sam Waterston, as Nick Carroway, grew on me, but I still did not really feel his connection or dedication to Gatsby as I would have liked. Despite that, the film captures the story in a way that makes you want to have just as much hope as Gatsby did.

Verdict: 8/12

The Great Gatsby (2000), directed by Robert Markowitz (TV movie)greatgatsby2000

  • Starring Toby Stephens, Mira Sorvino, and Paul Rudd

I found this 100 min adaptation of novel to be my least favorite. Now, I don’t want to start bashing tv movies because there are plenty of tv movies gems out there, but I have to say that this just falls short of that. It captures all of the main plot points of the novel to a T. In fact, it was almost too exact. All of the iconic lines from the novel were said just as they were in the book and it felt like they were just reading from a script. I, honestly, didn’t feel much heart in this adaptation. I’m a total fan of Paul Rudd and will always be, but even he couldn’t help the film capture the beauty of the novel.

Verdict: 6/12

The Great Gatsby (2013), directed by Baz Luhrman

  • Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Toby Mcguiregreatgatsby2013

This, 142 min, adaption is lavish, upbeat and breathtaking. The costumes and scenery are at their highest point and it’s one of the most beautiful renditions I have seen of the novel. Leonardo DiCaprio is a dream as Jay Gatsby and pulls off the essence of a man driven by hope in the best fashion I have seen yet. It captures all of the most moving moments of the novel in a way that will keep you rooting for Jay Gatsby. I know most people did not find that this adaptation lived up to all of the hype of the novel, but this is by far my favorite adaptation. It could, honestly, just be how visually appealing this version is or it could just be Leo, but I thoroughly look forward to watching this movie multiple times.

Verdict: 9/12

Despite the fact that all of these films try desperately to capture the spirit of Fitzgerald’s novel and, in some cases have gotten closer than others, I have yet to see an adaptation of the film that does the novel justice.


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