The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald last year and so when this 1974 version of the film starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow came on TV late one night I rushed to record it. I had not seen it before and the imagery for this famous adaptation had always convinced me, before reading the book, that the 'Great Gatsby' was a car. Now, of course, I know different, although the car is gorgeous, and very iconic of the age.
My memories of this novel are a colourful montage of images, opulent parties and lavish clothing, houses of the elite during the Jazz Age in America after the First World War. Fitzgerald's lovely descriptions, especially of the exotic party goers, are what stayed with me, as well as the huge set pieces that were begging to be translated into a film.
I was not disappointed. This film pulls out all the stops to accurately reproduce each scene with care and attention to detail. Costumes of the Long Island rich are extravagant and ridiculously impractical, make up and hair flawless. Everything reeks of money.
The casting works brilliantly too. I was aware of Redford as Gatsby already, so his presence may have infiltrated my reading of the book anyway, but Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern and Sam Waterstone are excellent in their roles also.
The narrative slides by, quietly and with sophistication, as does the book. The party scene mid way through is a spectacle in itself with wild Charlston type dancing and millions of extras.
My only criticism was that it was a little long and I was quite tired by the end. I would imagine that for anyone who has not read this brilliant novel it may be a bit of a slog and not fully hold your interest. I don't know. I enjoyed it because I enjoyed the book and this enhanced the former experience by faithfully reproducing the mood, era and images to a screen. There were scenes in this movie, the petrol garage particularly, that were almost exactly as I had imagined them. If I did not have that foundation to build on I might have found it a bit dull and drawn out. I know that it has mixed reviews, but it cannot be criticised for any lack of glamour, or effort, or loyalty. It is pace that lets it down, but it is also this that recreates, in my opinion, the heady mood of the original novel.
In conclusion, this movie may be best watched after experiencing the book, as a faithful revisitation of a hugely loved story, one that many, and not just Americans, have grown up with. I would love to think that it would inspire a non-reader to read the novel, and very possibly it has, but I wonder if for others it may be considered long-winded and they find their attention waning half way through.
I enjoyed visually revisiting this classic novel that I enjoyed last year, I do love Robert Redford too, and I am very much looking forward to the new version later this year with Leonardo di Caprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.
This post completes #5 of my personal challenges during 2012 to compare 3 books to their movie counterparts, the previous ones being North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.