Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gatsby Galore

Last month has essentially been dedicated to the amazing novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The Great Gatsby was the pick for book club in May, which coincided wonderfully with the release of Baz Luhrmann’s film interpretation.  And since I don’t do anything halfway and I knew I would be doing a lot about Gatsby, I obviously needed to watch the Robert Redford version as well. Which I hadn’t seen yet. So first I will discuss the novel, followed by an analysis of Luhrmann’s film, and then Clayton’s film.  I’m being nit picky and in depth, so if you (the reader) are unaware of the story and do not want spoilers, you should leave now. Cause I’m gonna spoil all up in this.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors, and this book especially is one of my favorite novels.  His style is elegant and refined, without being snobby or too intellectual for people to enjoy.  I feel Chuck Palahniuk’s style is similar, but Palahniuk’s style is decidedly more sarcastic and offensive.  For those who don’t know the story, young man Nick Carraway tells the story of his summer in New York.  He spends time with his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan.  Daisy sets up Nick with her friend Jordan Baker, and all of them are swept away with the charismatic influence of the jazz age.  Nick lives next door to a mysterious gent named Gatsby, and it is eventually revealed he has a past connection to Daisy of the romantic kind.  Gatsby’s covert nature leaves everyone wondering who he really is and what business he has.  Meanwhile, Tom carries on an affair with the married Myrtle Wilson, right under the nose of Mr. Wilson.  Every character has a distinct weakness, or level of screwed up.  And each of them is just trying to find some semblance of peace in the crazy world. Eventually everyone reaches their downfalls in the form of a fight and accidental death.  In the end, everyone is disillusioned with the age of decadence.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” p. 7

About Tom Buchanan: “[...] one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anticlimax.” p. 11

“The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at some time [...]” p. 69

“The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.” p.77

“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” p. 87

“[...] and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” p. 110

“There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic.” p. 111

“The transition from libertine to prig was so complete.” p. 116

“‘I’m thirty,’ I said. ‘I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.’” p. 156

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...” p. 158

“It eluded us then, but that’s no matter- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther....And one fine morning-- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” p. 159

Admittedly, I could have added at least half a dozen more quotes.  But I felt I had enough.  Fitzgerald’s story and style is absolutely amazing to me.  He is what I would want to be as a writer.  Not the personal abuse of alcohol, just the excellent writing quality.

#33: The Great Gatsby (By Baz Luhrmann)

Baz is known for over the top and extravagant cinematography, which involving a story of the Jazz Age could be a perfect fit.  The casting for this movie was absolutely fantastic in my opinion. Leo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, Tobey Maguire as Nick, Joel Edgerton as Tom, and Isla Fisher as Myrtle embodied each of their characters so well.  In my opinion, much better than the Redford version.  Leo portrayed Gatsby’s vulnerability better, and the modern music was such a twist.  It added another layer to the story, much better than just sticking to the music of the time.

This version had a more truthful first meeting between Nick and Gatsby, and Daisy and Gatsby had much better chemistry in this film, in my opinion.  Nick’s narration is well done, with quotes occasionally making screen appearance, but the story puts Nick in a sanitarium.  The sanitarium is nowhere in the original novel.  Personally, since at the end of the novel Nick is determined to head back to the Midwest, I would have put him on a train, writing the story on the way.  But I suppose Baz needed something more dramatic.  I give the film a 7 out of 10.  The film was remarkable, but Baz’s over the top style got old.  And while the modern music and faster pace served the film well, the sanitarium addition added to the story when instead straight information from the book would have served better.

#34: The Great Gatsby (By Jack Clayton)

Admittedly, I am not a fan of Robert Redford or Mia Farrow. Robert Redford, I have only found tolerable in the film Sneakers.  And Mia Farrow’s voice I find grating, which was even more played out as she was the vapid Daisy.  Apart from that, the older film did have some better qualities over the newer one.  The relationship between Nick and Jordan was played out much better, and even included showing her cheating at golf.  Which is a big part of her character development.  Tom and Myrtle in this version have more sentiment in their relationship, while the newer version focused more on their relationship as sexual.  Farrow does slightly better at portraying Daisy’s flightiness.  Sam Waterston was also adorable as all get out as Nick.  The main drawback of the film, minus my dislike for the two main actors, the pace was terrible.  The film clocked in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, which is the exact same as the new one.  But the older version felt like getting teeth pulled.  I kept waiting for it to end.

I give the film a 5.5 out of 10.  The pace ruined the film for me.  Interactions between Daisy and Jay were added in both films, which makes sense since there isn’t any relationship development in the book.  But there were so many scenes added in the older one, it got unnecessary and helped the film drag.  I also did not like the character portrayal as much as the new one.  There were some aspects that redeemed the film, but overall I found it a waste of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I discovered a while back an amazing website called Out of Print.  The website creates clothing and other products with the old school book covers on them.  They also coordinate with Books for Africa, which sends books to underprivileged areas in an attempt to challenge illiteracy.  So all around amazing!  Here is me rocking my new Gatsby sweatshirt.  I also have an Alice in Wonderland tee, and hope to purchase a library card pouch soon :)

And just remember the true meaning of Gatsby:

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