Not Great But Sometimes Magical
V. Marshall | North Fork, CA USA | 07/28/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is both great and awful depending entirely upon one's need for accuracy or how deeply you may have felt about the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay for this film and followed the classic book about as closely as a film is capable of doing. But I found the direction to be flawed somehow. The film is filled with starlit close-ups (no one's eyes sparkle like that, not even Daisy's) and smoke screen silhouettes, complex party scenes and plenty of flapper costumes. I just couldn't figure out why all of the strange lighting existed after hiring two nearly perfect looking actors, in Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. I would have preferred to see the stars in Daisy's eyes stem from a great acting performance rather than the eerie sparkles falsely placed in every close-up!
Robert Redford was good as Gatsby and he conveyed some of the character's desperate and lonely love. I was disappointed that all of the complexity of Gatsby was never fully explained. If I would not have known the story beforehand I would have never understood what tied Gatsby and Daisy together, other than money of course. But Redford captures Gatsby's aloofness to a tee and one can easily see why Daisy would be in love with Gatsby.
I found Mia Farrow to be disappointing as Daisy Buchanan, the spoiled debutante who manages to seduce the great Gatsby for a lifetime. As stated previously Farrow's close-ups were far too crafted to seduce anyone. She came across as a flirty silly girl more than a classic seductress and paled in comparison to Redford's portrayal of Gatsby. She looked cute in all of the frilly costumes of course, but I never really found her character believable.
Karen Black is downright scary as the mistress of Mr. Buchanan, with her eyes crossing and spitting with every close-up. Bruce Dern plays the arrogant competitive Mr. Buchanan with great nastiness. Sam Waterston steals the show however with his portrayal as the narrator of the story. He captures innocence and compassion while keeping his open-eyed curiosity and faithfulness to Gatsby from beginning to end.
Overall this film is good, if you have read the book first, but lacks a full explanation. The filmmakers relied more on scenery and lighting than perfect casting and a deeper meaning. Some scenes are magical while others fall flat. For Redford fans and lovers of the 20's it is a gem. The greed and power hungry people are captured but sadly the deepest desires of all that passion become lost behind the filmmakers vision.
Because the Twenties WERE Shallow
Grammar Girl | United States | 04/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I get the impression that the people giving this movie poor reviews are a mix of 1) intellectual snobs (or would-be) who think it compulsory to pan any screen attempt to tackle great literature or 2) hooligans who can't appreciate a movie unless it's got blood, guts, and vulgarity (in short, like most movies made today). I loved Fitzgerald's book, and I loved this film, and here's why: It is not only an effective, emotionally gripping rendition of the book (made plain by the very dislike so many people express for its intentionally dislikable characters), but it is a visually stunning one, capturing all the hollow gold of the glitzy era the book so devastatingly indicts, and the performances by nearly all the players are superb (with special kudos to Sam Waterston for the very personification of Nick the narrator). For all those who say the movie is lacking depth or who criticize Mia Farrow's rendering of Daisy as flighty, your very criticism reveals the film's great achievement of realizing the main point of the book. Fitzgerald's point was that the Roaring Twenties WERE shallow, represented by the "rotten crowd" of "careless people" (quoted from the book, and in Nick's commentary at the end of the movie) that very much included Daisy, as well as Tom. I don't know how any honest reading of the book could interpret Daisy as "sensible," as one critic put it, and even "vulnerable" is a stretch. Quoted from book and paraphrased in movie: "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..." Farrow's fey performance portrays her character very accurately, best summed up by the exchange between Nick and Robert Redford's Gatsby: Nick: "She has an indiscreet voice." Gatsby: "Her voice is full of--money." Moreover, Bruce Dern as Tom, though less physically imposing than implied in the book, is nevertheless the consummate, racist bully he is supposed to be, and caused me to cower instinctively whenever he spoke. The movie faithfully conveys the story of a deeply flawed, not atypical, hero, Gatsby, living in a world he built on dreams of his own fabrication, including his lovely Daisy. He is a man of such endless hope, romance, and a kind of chivalry (much is made of his war heroism in the book, and this is emphasized in several scenes in the movie) that is not without egotism, pomp, and an "eagerness to be liked" that Redford brings so well to the role. Almost noble in his earnestness and belief in romantic love, he rises from poverty in an age (not unlike our own?) when money is confused with class and nobility. Being unable to compete in that crass, careless, selfish, shallow world (for how long can anyone, when there's always someone richer?), he and his dreams are doomed. One of many great acting moments in the film takes place when Nick advises Gatsby he "can't repeat the past." Redford looks back at him, incredulous, almost as if he'd been struck, "Can't repeat the past? Of COURSE you can!" The words ring out, ominous in a hopelessness obvious to everyone but Gatsby.I agree with others below who praised the performances of some of the lesser characters as well, including a genuinely heartbreaking portrayal of Gatz, Gatsby's father.Dump the critics, read the book, and buy the film."
Nelson Riddle score makes the difference
V. Marshall | 12/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Earlier in the year, I offered a review of the video tape edition of this film. The version contained elevator-type music, as the original Nelson Riddle soundtrack was missing. Riddle could not agree on terms price for the original score with the movie studio. Riddle's estate evidentally has done so so the original score has been restored to the film. Many reviewers asked that the original score be considered for any re-release. Well, on the 30th anniversary of the film, here it is.."The Great Gatsby" with the original soundtrack. Thank you!
Fitzgerald would have been pleased with the adaptation and the accompanying soundtrack. It is obvious how much of a difference the music makes in contributing to the overall experience.
The DVD is not to be viewed in a context of pure entertainment. It is a relevant story about the desire to possess what one does not have, regardless of the cost. The script is taken directly from the key points in the text. The film has a dream-like quality due to the utilization of a unique lens.
If one seeks an action packed thriller, this is not it. The film is for the romantic and sentimental. Anyone who has sought someone or something only to lose it all in the end will be able to relate. The song "What'll I Do" underlies Gatsby's insecurity. Redford and Farrow make a wonderful Gatsby and Daisy. As for the script, it does contain some lines which could be considered corny in our present time. The script, however, is incorporated DIRECTLY from the novel. I have read the text more than 25 times.
In 2002, I viewed the movie at Rosecliff mansion in Newport, RI, where several of the scenes were filmed. The version presented was the one without the original score. What a disappointment!
As an educator, I use the film to provoke several questions. Among these is the Estella-like (Dickens) character of Daisy...why is not Daisy content with Gatsby? Was it merely a whirlwind romance with Gatsby deceiving himself as to Daisy's feelings? How often do people in our society nowadays do the same?
I would provide more detailed substantiation in support of this version, but as I am serving in the armed forces in Iraq, I have little computer access. I really appreciate the release of the DVD, especially in time for Christmas. At least it will make Christmas just a little better for this one soldier in the war. If you are a romantic, sentimental, reflective person, you will enjoy this film. For those of you writing negative reviews, may I respectfully suggest you reconsider your remarks in consideration of the restored soundtrack?"
Restore the original
C. Neal | Virginia | 10/23/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not going to recover all the same ground as previous reader reviews, thus adding to the Department of Redundancy Department flavor of this section. What I WOULD like to say is that the version of the film available to the purchasing public is horribly hampered by its "replacement" soundtrack. If you wish to see why this film was considered great at the time of this release, catch it on TV sometime with its original, scene-and-era-appropriate soundtrack, not the mewling, repetitive crap it was replaced with. I sincerely wish that whatever legal beefs led to its excision from the retail version of the film could be resolved. In the meantime, it's a great example of how a great soundtrack makes a great movie."