Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway takes up a modest residence in Long Island next door to a mysterious millionaire of newly acquired and likely ill-gotten means. Gatsby, the endearing new friend, hopes to stoke the flames of a love that once burned between himself and Daisy, Nick's cousin who is married to an old money man. Gatsby's dream eventually manifests itself in tragedy against the backdrop of the aimless opulence of the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald's monumental novel is given a faithful rendering in this adaption written for the screen by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Jack Clayton. While all the plot points are mostly hit, symbols such as the the green light on Daisy's dock and the glowing eyes of Dr. T.J Eckleburg are nicely realized, and Gatsby's parties are gloriously recreated, the spirit of a classic that probably does not need a film rendering is never rightly instilled. The film is well cast, with Robert Redford making a near ideal Gatsby, Bruce Dern excellent as the cruel, philandering Tom Buchanan, and Sam Waterston as the naive and reticent Nick (I felt Mia Farrow was wrong as Daisy, playing her as too broad and wooden). Despite this inspired casting, the film fails to delve deeply into the hearts of these, which Fitzgerald does so well in the novel. "The Great Gatsby" is a film that may defy cinematization due to its narrative structure and beautifully poetic and descriptive prose. This version gives it a good, perhaps overly faithful but ultimately hollow crack at it, and I hold deep reservations for the upcoming 3D(?) Baz Luhrmann version featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan due out later this year.