On Friday night, I went to see The Great Gatsby at the cinema and it brought back all my memories of how much I loved the book. The film itself was a visual feast. The acting, costumes and soundtrack were all amazing. Before seeing the film, I couldn’t quite imagine Carey Mulligan as Daisy; I had always imagined Daisy as slightly harder that Mulligan’s innocent features could convey. However, she did a good job, even if she perhaps wouldn’t have been my choice, and certainly had a ‘voice full of money’ just as the book describes. Tobey Maguire is a perfect Nick Carraway and Leonardo DiCaprio was also impressive as Gatsby. They had added a slightly strange new addition where Nick writes Gatsby’s story from a sanatorium several years after the events described. I don’t think this really worked or was necessary, but I’ll be interested in what other people think.
The overall feeling the film left me with was wonder at the parties and sumptuousness of it, but certainly not in the haunted, teary state that Jay Gatsby’s fate left me in the book. Perhaps in some ways, The Great Gatsby is too delicate a book to be filmed completely successfully and despite a really enjoyable evening, I did have some reservations. Was there a little too much style over substance here? Yes, I think so. I think the truth, uncertainty and beauty of the book is perhaps too evasive for film, yes. I do also think the terrible reviews of the film have been a little harsh though – I thought the modern music worked really well for example. The New Yorker did a really good review of the film which I felt was closer to the mark than any of the UK press if you’d like to read it.
So, bearing all that it mind, I would definitely advise reading the book before seeing this new film. I loved the book and it was certainly one of my favourites. Nick Carraway is an almost perfect unreliable narrator, a device I have an irrational fondness for because it makes me think and question. Gatsby is a romantic, hopeful illusion and Daisy and Tom are odious. The tension, the social mores and the dream of the book are all so finely drawn that they wash over you and it is only at the end that you realise what a finely crafted, understated statement about the American dream it is. I think this is one of the great American books.
I’ve also read a few of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories. Short stories are not normally a genre I am particularly interested in to be honest but The Cut-Glass Bowl by Fitzgerald was outstanding and I need to read more of them. So, as I trot off to add more Fitzgerald to my ‘to read’ list, I’ll leave it at highly recommending a read of The Great Gatsby if you have not already.