The Great Gatsby

It’s one of those books I read as a teenager and which has stayed long in the memory, although it’s such a long time since I read it that that recollection may be of snippets and isolated images rather than of the book as whole ; and it may be that some of those memories are more of the Robert Redford/ Mia Farrow movie of the 1970s than of the book itself.  But the current incarnation of the novel is on   at all the cinemas in London at the moment, so of course I went to see The Great Gatsby, even though it has received distinctly mixed reviews both  in the press and on the web.

It was only when I was handed the 3D glasses that the full import of the ‘CGI spectacular effects’ dawned on me; that ‘it’s big, it’s brash, colourful and it’s action packed’ aesthetic began to sink in.  I’d read that there was also an anachronistic modern score too to jangle our sensibilities.  It was all going to be rather loud and discordant, wasn’t it?

My overall review of the film would be classic fence sitting: I both liked it and disliked it.  The aspect of it I particularity disliked was the 3D-ness of it.  I’ve only seen one other film in 3D, as the type of films that are usually made in that format don’t appeal to me; and now, having seen The Great Gatsby, I know that the format itself appeals to me even less.  It was too swishy and swoopy to be comfortable viewing; in scenes where two characters were simply in a room talking to each other, for example in the film’s framing device of Tobey Maguire, as Nick Carraway, recounting the story to his shrink in later life, the focus would shift suddenly from one face looming out of the screen at us, to the other in the background.  At times I found it more comfortable to take the 3D glasses off and watch the blurred images on the screen instead.

The musical score, on the other hand, I quite enjoyed, apart from those moments when a recognisable track from the 2010s was shoe horned in.

For all the action and noise associated with the depiction of the parties thrown by Gatsby in the hope that Daisy would come to one of them, my attention wandered.  It was impossible to feel engaged with the story or characters during all the whizzbang of the imagery, and then, somehow, the smaller moments failed to hook me back in.  Having said that, I did enjoy watching Leonardo Dicaprio looking good in a suit, with a hopeful, not quite confident smile on his face trying to woo Carey Mulligan’s Daisy.  I also thought Joel Edgerton was well cast as Tom, a careless yet powerful figure, with the right amount of allure and bullying threat about him.

What I missed in the telling however was the notion that Nick Carraway is an unreliable narrator, as seduced by what Gatsby appears to be and what he can give him, as Daisy is.  Instead the film gives us Tobey Maguire recounting the story as a somewhat bumbling observer, rather than a full participant with his own agenda.  And what of poor Myrtle?  Surely we need to see more of her to feel more affected by her killing?   Showing us a 3D slow-motion sequence of car hitting human seemed like a cheap way to shock.

I’m glad I’ve seen the film, as there is one scene of real drama, in a sweltering hotel room in New York, when Gatsby and Tom face off, and Daisy finally reveals that she will not leave Tom.  The characters face each other, tightly wound and desperate, saying  angry words that will turn the tide of their lives, and the drama works, without any cinematic trickery or music, by allowing the actors to perform.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?

Leave a comment


  1. I haven’t seen the film but I really recommend the ballet by Northern Ballet. Sadly it’s Sadler’s Well’s run was all too brief but it got such great reviews I’m sure it will come back some time.

    • Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll certainly keep an eye out for the ballet if it comes around again. There seems to be a lot of Gatsby in the air!

  2. Rowena, I haven’t seen Gatsby but do agree with your take on 3D – it makes me feel a bit sick, apart from anything else. I’ve heard mixed reports about The Great Gatsby but you’ve just about tipped me into going with your comments on the music. I shall report back (once I’ve got over the sickness).
    We spoke about your blog when we met in London (such a great chat, so sorry I had to fly off!) and I was absolutely intrigued by the one post a day challenge but have only just managed to get over here (sorry!). It’s lovely, I love the random flying around London and other places, real or otherwise, and just wish I had time to comment on more posts. However, I have decided instead to award you a Liebster Award – please see for further details 🙂

    • Hi Jackie. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I’m glad you like my random musings – sometimes I wonder what impression they must give of me (!) Thank you for the award ( and for the link) Hopefully there will be more London lunches and chances to share tales.

  3. Haven’t seen it yet, aiming for this weekend.

  4. Louise

     /  May 31, 2013

    Hi Rowena, what a great post. I have seen the film, last weekend, but not in 3D, I hate 3D and the glasses are awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you are already wearing glasses! Anyway, I love the novel and have read it about four times over the last 20 years or so. I loved the film too, I thought it was wonderful. Leo looked great and I loved the vulnerability of Gatsby. Carey Mulligan was very good as Daisy I thought, just the right balance of naivity and selfishness. Still can’t decide if she’s a complete cow or not! I loved the humour, and the party scenes were amazingly staged; maybe a little over the top, but then in the novel they’re pretty wild affairs, so I think it was OK. So a thumbs up from me. The ballet sounds interesting, would love to see that.

    • Hi Louise, thanks. I really wish that I’d seen it in 2D, because of the glasses, like you say, as well as the motion sickness! I agree about Gatsby’s vulnerability – couple with the breezy careless confidence of both Daisy and Tom, you knew Gatsby would come off the worst. Maybe it was the 3D swooping and swaying, but I found the party scenes a bit too much, but I’m glad I’ve seen it. (But I’ve also just put the Redford/Farrow 1970s version on my Lovefilm list so I can see if it is as a remember it!)

  5. Have not seen it yet. Thanks for the honesty. My daughter would agree. She was dissapointed as well.

    • Thanks for visiting. It’s a pity to have been disappointed, but I’m still glad to have seen it.

  6. Rowena, I’m so bummed you saw the 3D version. I was really aware of the mixed reviews when I went to see Gatsby, which I think lowered my expectations – but I loved it. I feel – because I’m on your wavelength for so many of your opinions – that it would have come together for you had you seen the 2d because the clash of modern and antique, is beautiful when viewed that way. I’m glad you mention the music, because I noticed a lot of that too. Plus you drew me in from the start because you set the scene so well. Sorry I’ve not been by in a while, but lovely to be back!

    • Thanks! Good to have you back; had been wondering. It’s hard to go back now to see it in 2D, but I’ve learnt my lesson now and will avoid 3D from now on -my sort of film doesn’t generally need it (!)


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