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Saturday, May 25, 2013

From Book to Movie: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout.

The Book:

I read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby last summer after the trailer for the movie came out. The trailer was so vague as to what the whole story was about that I needed to know what the heck was going to happen. It was a pretty quick read at only 180 pages or so and it took me absolutely no time at all to read.

I can't say I loved The Great Gatsby. There were a number of things that bothered me to much. Ultimately, I hated Daisy. I thought she was awful. Daisy was selfish and indulgent and spoiled and I absolutely despised her. It was her character swayed my experience of this book in a negative way. I also did not like her husband, Tom. I know that you aren't supposed to like Tom, but I  had such an adverse reaction to him while reading Gatsby that again, it made the the whole experience hard for me. I laugh at this now, because Daisy and Tom made me SO angry when I read the book that I would huff about it for a while after reading.

I loved Jay Gatsby. He reminded of a little kid. His enthusiasm and charisma were great. There was something about him that just made me like him. I wish though that he would have let go of Daisy and moved on. He wanted/needed certain things from her that he couldn't have. I liked the relationship he had with Nick. It was almost brotherly and it was sweet. A lot of people I know who have read this book, have said they absolutely loved Nick. I don't know that I understand this affection. I found Nick a great narrator, but I am not sure that I loved his character. He was sort of background noise to me. But that's just me.

I know there are a number of things and important themes that I am missing from The Great Gatsby, and had I caught on to those it would have probably been an amazing experience for me. But as I've said before and I am sure I will say it again, I am very character driven. I am sure that now that I know what I am getting from the characters I will be able to focus more on what the author is trying to say. I will absolutely be reading The Great Gatsby again in the near future.


The Movie:

When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was SO eager to see it. I loved the look of it, I loved the music (Jack White's 'Love is Blindess' is still on repeat to this day). I loved seeing Leo as Jay Gatsby.  I was excited. After reading the book, I was still interested, but I wasn't so excited that I was heartbroken when they pushed the Christmas day release to May 2013. 

Walking into the film I didn't know how to feel and I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure if my dislike for Daisy was going to make it impossible for me to like the film,  and I was sure Tom was going to rub me the wrong way. Was I going to like Jay Gatsby the same as I did in the book. All these questions. I basically walked into the theater with very low expectations. 

I loved the film. I believe this is my first book to movie that I have ever loved completely. I thought the film stayed pretty true to the story (although I will be the first to admit that I am not one for remembering details). I appreciated Leo's Gatsby (although he did say 'old sport' A LOT. Like A LOT). I thought that he presented Gatsby's earnestness beautifully.

What I really enjoyed about The Great Gatsby: the film, was the modern take on it. The story was told from a 1920's perspective, but the details (aside from the costumes) were very much twenty first century. I liked that this gave you a good sense just how glamorous and over the top the lifestyles of those involved.

The movie fails to depict just how terrible Daisy was in the book. She's still pretty self-indulgent and spoiled in the movie, but I didn't despise her. I don't think that I could with Carey Mulligan as Daisy (I like Carey to much).

Overall, I just really liked the movie. Whether it was a master piece or not. I thought the casting was good and I liked how it was done. Perhaps when I reread the book I will think differently, but for now... I was impressed.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? I'm curious to know.

~Happy Reading Everyone!


  1. It's been a long time since I've read the book, I've forgotten so much about it Sara! So glad to know the movie is fantastic though, I'm excited to see it. I can definitely see Leo as Gatsby:)

  2. So I haven't read the book yet or watched the movie yet, but my inclination may be to just skip the book (at least for now) if the movie was pretty faithful because I'm really intrigued by the movie. I really like how you describe it being like a modern take on the story! Interesting. I like Carey Mulligan a lot, too, so she would be a hard one to hate. Hopefully I can see this sometime soon! I loved reading your thoughts on it.


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