on December 24, 2003
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?
on April 8, 2000
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.
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.
on April 7, 2002
I too would rate this film MUCH higher if the original musical score was reinstated by Paramount. TV editions still have it, but some music royalty issues scuttled the VHS version, effectively destroying the whole tone of the movie. Without the original film having Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do" and a few other '20s standards, the mystical, romantic soul of the movie is banished, and what comes across is a shadow of the original production. If there's ever a DVD version, the original soundtrack BETTER be reinstated, since this is NOT the true film otherwise!
on October 15, 2001
The supporting cast is just about perfect. Mia Farrow as Daisy, Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan, and Sam Waterston as Nick Carroway seemed like they just walked right out of the book. The House, the parties, the Valley of Ashes, the yellow convertible, it's all here. The eyes of Dr. Eckleberg keep peeping out and looking (examining?)the strange behavior of the participants in this seemingly fantastical yet very American drama of "have's vs have-not's". So many of the events are almost identical to the book. So why do I give this movie 4 stars instead of 5? The only flaw, in my opinion, is Robert Redford. And please don't misunderstand me, I like Redford a lot in other movies. But as Jay Gatsby? He's just a little too crisp, clean, and mature. A little bit too serene and confident to quite make it to the awkward plane of Jay Gatsby, people-pleaser and approval-seeker. Gatsby is a nervous want-to-be, trying to get approval from "old money" people. He wants to be liked by everyone--he throws parties to prove that he's "great". Redford is just too slick, I think, to really give that sense of wanting--wanting to be approved by Daisy and the others around him. He wants everyone to like him, which makes some, particularly Nick Carroway, frustrated with him. But how could you possibly not like Robert Redford? He never once comes off as nervous. I think that Redford's physical "look" works, but the portrayal was not quite there for me. Still, I think it the best rendition of the Great Gatsby yet done on film, and I do think that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have liked it. Not an easy movie to make in the first place.
on March 12, 2000
I just finished watching this movie in eleventh-grade English class. We also read the book (one of the best I've read; highly recommended). On one hand, the movie was exceptionally faithful to the book, could claim some good performances, was visually stunning, and had some great moments. On the other hand, it had some dismal performances and dragged at points.
I was surprised to see Sam Waterston as Nick. I can only describe him as excellent. He was the perfect choice for Nick, and brought through every emotion right on the mark. Equally impressive was Robert Redford as Gatsby. Oddly enough, I've never seen a movie of his before, but I surely will now. He gave a marvelous, valiant performance that could evoke sympathy from even the most heartless person. I'd never seen a Mia Farrow movie either, but my friend is a big fan of "Rosemary's Baby" (I tell her it's because she, too, is hellspawn) but I disliked her portrayal of Daisy from the start. I found that I came to hate it more and more as the film went on. I'm guessing she saw the character as one-dimensional, because she gave the most shrill performance I've ever seen. (For another shrill mockery of a classic character, see Winona Ryder's annoying Abigail in 1998's "The Crucible.") She emphasizes the flighty bimbo that Daisy lets everyone see, but completely left out the sensible and vulnerable woman inside, leaving one to wonder if actress Katherine Helmond based her performance as Jessica Tate ("Soap") on Farrow's Daisy. I was one in a large crowd that thought Bruce Dern was insanely miscast as Tom. He doesn't fit the book's description at all(watch how it seems odd for Daisy to call him "brute" in the dinner scene), instead looking like a seedy used-car salesman who happened to hit it big. (If you've ever read the book "Matilda," he's the spitting image of the father!) Nonetheless, he is, at the very least, good in the role. Lois Chiles is enjoyable as the sizzling Jordan, although the movie's Jordan differs from the book's. (The book gave me the distinct mental image of the nasal, society-licking Gloria in 1974's "Mame.") Karen Black leaves something to be desired as Myrtle, but Scott Wilson is one of the cast's best as her husband George. He becomes almost terrifying toward the end as his character grows more and more desperate. (Check it out when he suddenly appears at the Buchanan breakfast table near the end. He just seems to materialize there, like Jason or something. Hilarious!) Roberts Blossom (Old Man Marley in "Home Alone" to people my age) is on par with Waterston, Wilson, and Redford in his short appearance as Mr. Gatz, Gatsby's father. Watch for his best moment, the heartbreaking funeral scene in which he recites his the schedule his son lived by as a child.
The movie itself is good, but not great. It seems like something intangible is missing. It's hard to describe. (The one I can note is the important dinner scene near the beginning, which is far shorter than in the novel.) But there were two scenes in particular that really hit the spot. The pivotal hotel room scene (or, as it became famously known at school, "Chapter 7," where "everything blew up"), with tempers running high and alliances changing rapidly, was film making at its best. Also, this scene is probably Farrow and Dern's best in the movie. It pulls off the tense, explosive mood without a hitch. The other was the scene near the end where George shot Gatsby. If you know what's going to happen, you can take the time to note how the mood for this one scene is being set up as early as two or three scenes before it, slowly building. The long shots of Gatsby floating in the pool on the air mattress, the way he kept turning and calling Daisy's name, the "calm before the storm" air that the whole thing gave off...I watched thinking, "this is brilliant." And when this peaks, you'll find yourself several minutes later, still sitting there with your mouth open.
I keep hearing about the beautiful, Oscar-winning score by the great Nelson Riddle that is for some reason replaced on the video. I don't know why it's not there, but I'm sure it was good. The costumes also won an Oscar.
Everyone should read the book, especially if you see the movie, this way you can get what's missing. (I hear a TV-movie version, with Mira Sorvino as Daisy--hopefully she'll do it justice--is in post-production for broadcast this year.) And, misses aside, this is a movie that deserves to be seen.
on January 13, 2000
First off, all of you tools who have not read the book, read it. It will do you wonders for understanding this movie. Simply put, the book is far better than the movie. The film itself is well done, portrayal of the times is excellent. Redford plays an acceptably good Gatsby. Mia Farrow gives an equally good performance as Daisy. She captures the characters shallowness and flighty appearance. Sam Waterston plays an excellent Nick Carraway. Wilson is also portrayed wonderfully and as he should be, not a cold blooded killer. Bruce Dern does not seem to be the right choice for the role of Tom. In the book, Tom seems bigger; more arrogant, a stronger character. Dern's portrayal seems meaker, and unfulfilling. Jordan Baker is well played, not to my liking, but well played none the less. The film, of course, lacks many details that are meaningful and create a better picture in the text. But, for what it is, it's a good show.
With a new Baz Luhrmann Gatzby film upon us, I thought it would be interesting to take a look and this 1974 version. By my count this is the 4th adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel including a "lost" silent version. Francis Ford Coppola handled the screenplay and stays pretty true to the book. Maybe too much so. It's not the dialog so much that is wrong, it's the long silences between exchanges. At times I felt like I was watching a daytime soap opera.
Mia Farrow is miscast in the critical role of Daisy Buchanan, the waifish heiress who marries the brutish Tom (Bruce Dern), himself of old money. Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) is the mysterious millionaire on the other side of Long Island, living "across the yard" from Nick Carraway, the film's narrator and Daisy's second cousin "once removed." Nicely played by Sam Waterson, Nick seems to love Daisy as much as Jay or certainly Tom.
The source of Gatsby's fortune is never clear but the implication is that it came from a series of illegal activities, likely to include bootlegging. Set in the post WW I early twenties, Gatsby's not very sociable but does spring for daily parties at his opulent house. Jay and Nick strike up a friendship which allows a reunion between Jay and Daisy who were romantically involved for a short period, prior to Jay shipping off to war.
Other characters become critical to the story. Scott Wilson from TV's "The Walking Dead" is very good as George Wilson a garage owner whose wife, Myrtle (Karen Black) is having a not-so-secret affair with Tom. Daisy's best friend, golfer Jordan Baker is played by yummy Lois Chiles. She's in many of the scenes but the filmmakers give her little to do but just look good.
The production values of the film are excellent and produced a couple Oscars (costume design, music scoring). Everyone dresses "to the nines" throughout the film. Often dressing in white and even Redford in a pink 3-piece suit, the film looks great, especially in this Blu ray offering. The Blu ray brings out some great detail but also shows some flaws. Set during a summer heat wave, the characters are often dripping with facial sweat, but there is not a hint of perspiration around the collars. In one scene Redford is wearing a white cable knit sweater. Yikes! The film is great to look at, but director Jack Clayton's glacial pacing is hard to take. It might have been different had there been any chemistry between Redford and Farrow. Had Gatsby gone after Chiles' character, now that would have been a better match.
The new Blu Ray edition is a significant step up from the dull DVD. The transfer has an AVC encoded 1080p resolution with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The movie looks very film-like with goodly amounts of grain and with sharp detail. There are many close-ups used in the film and the skin coloring looked perfect to me. I can't fault the video transfer. Likewise the audio has been upgraded to a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The surrounds kick in when the music starts, which is often. There are several lengthy party scenes and this is where you'll get the full 5.1 experience. Otherwise the dialog is properly focused up front. There are no special features or extras. None, zero, nada, zip.
on December 26, 2003
Much has been written about later versions of The Great Gatsby on video and DVD and how Nelson Riddle's score had been deleted due to "copyright" laws. I'm glad that now the original score is back....now, what can we do to have the double album soundtrack transferred to CD format?
on January 25, 2002
Mia Farrow gets slammed a lot for sinking this film, but I don't think the criticism is deserved. Her Daisy is charming, flighty, playful, irresponsible and probably a little stupid. But she epitomizes the upper class that Gatsby is so desperately trying to fit into, which display all these features. "The best thing a girl can be in this world, " Daisy philosophizes to Nick, "is a beautiful little fool." Lovely to look at, charming to be around but undemanding and demanding nothing. Everything must be given to her, for by herself she is worth nothing. Daisy is an ornament, and very little more. Mia Farrow plays her that way. Gatsby does not love her because he is enchanted by her character or admires her mind....he is obsessed with her because she represents a prize for which he can never really compete. For upper class men, the woman one marries is of vital importance because she completes the "set" of things you must have in order to play the upper class "game." Gatsby knows that, and he knows that Daisy would secure his entrance into the "game" because she has the look, the attitude, the very *smell* and *sound* of money. She was born to it and bred with it surrounding her all the time. Moreover, she has all the right physical qualities: beautiful, charming, and not too bright. I think where Redford makes a mistake is in trying to play Gatsby as a man who loves Daisy for the person she is rather than the class she represents. Bruce Dern is almost perfect as Daisy's husband Tom. Tom is completely secure in the knowledge that money can buy literally anything, and he has more than enough to get him everything he could ever want. Money will solve all of his problems for him, because money is the one thing that hardly anyone ever has quite enough of. And many, many people don't have enough to buy what they need to survive. This gives an enormous amount of power to someone who has more than he will ever need or, for that matter, more than he would want. He says at the end that he and Daisy have had times together that Gatsby could never understand, and he's right. Daisy knows her place and her role, and Tom is both happy and grateful that she can fulfill and play both so well; the times together he refers to are when they are playing their stereotypical roles together perfectly, artlessly and without any thought-- the product of a lifetime of training and practice. Jay Gatsby does not understand either the upper class "game," or the "roles" nor have any inkling of its final "goal." In the end, this is because he is at heart a decent human being and cannot be anything else. To be so rich that you need be held responsible for nothing is almost identical to absolute power corrupting absolutely, for it boils down to the same thing. Gatsby pays the price; rich people never pay. Sam Waterston is an excellent Nick Carroway. The rest of the supporting cast also is outstanding. And of course the music is wonderful, the sets are fabulous and the art direction first-rate.