Last week I went to see the Great Gatsby. After hearing about the movie all around me, in reviews, from friends and literary geniuses, the anticipation had grown quite big. And although not all messages were that positive, for me, there was still some high expectations. And it turns out, I enjoyed the movie greatly. The secret? Having not read the book.
Going with five friends, one who had read the book and another that had seen the 1974 movie, I think the theory proved itself. While all of us enjoyed it, expectations and outcomes changed along our previous knowledge. What I knew about the movie or book wasn’t much. The book supposedly was a great novel published in the 20s and became one of the most read books in the United States. Some love story was involved, but what made the book so great was the characters, and the dialogues they had in the book, the way it was written. The movie was not the first adaption of the book, features Leonardo DiCaprio, and is directed by the Australian Baz Luhrmann, who is known for Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet.
I think it’s safe to say that due to the range of expectations, book-turn-to-movie-movies are never really what you want them to be. Reviews are not always bad, but never great. Coming from the book, you know what you’re supposed to get, and what you are missing. Whether the movie does not match the book at all, does not live up to your particular imagination, or just leaves out that one little detail that to you made all the difference, we can say it always disappoints. Books and movies are not the same. So maybe the approach is to lower expectations, and go see these type of movies as a product on its own. Don’t watch the movie from your favorite book. Or, leave the relation to the book behind.
My lack of expectations and knowledge turned out to be the best way. What I thought I was getting into was limited to the trailer and Luhrmann’s previous movies. Meaning over the top spectacle. And that’s what I got. Glitter, glamour, color, kitsch, grandiose decors, costumes, and much more. A true visual extravaganza. At the beginning of the movie, during one of Gatsby’s great big parties, the camera drags you through his giant mansion, showing one more booming shot after the other. Your eyes do not know where to look. The movie is assisted by mostly hiphop and RnB (which made sense after seeing Jay-Z’s name as producer in the credits), and although some 20’s jazz would have been well appreciated, the music seems to fit the flow and feel of the movie. The actors seems well casted and set to me believable characters on the screen. Tobey Maguire is as always good in playing the lonely and a bit out of place Nick Carraway, DiCaprio shines as the wealthy Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan with her sweet innocent girl appearance shows she’s capable of staging a decent Daisy.
Reading the reviews afterwards, it seems that the movie is quite accurate to the book. (I read somewhere a 80-84 percent accurate, it seems interesting how you get to that percentage) Critics tend to be mostly disappointed by Luhrmanns ‘frantic jumble’. The spectacle to me, makes the movie. If it does justice to the book, I cannot say. Additionally, what interest me to read in the reviews concerns the relationship between Nick and Gatsby, apparently the biggest love story. Reading all these reviews and complains, secretly, I now want to read the book.