Before seeing the new movie version of The Great Gatsby, I wanted to reread the book. Images of Robert Redford still emerge when I think of that West Egg mansion; before replacing them with Leo, I wanted Fitzgerald’s words again.
In an interview, the current movie’s Director claimed that more copies of the book had been sold during the weeks of the movie preview than in Fitzgerald’s lifetime. A publishing disaster that did not meet the expectations raised by his first bestselling novel – “This Side of Paradise” – The Great Gatsby’s biggest sales were to Fitzgerald himself, who bought copies to thin the shelves, and sold the movie rights to the book for a mere $16,000.
Fitzgerald’s language is sometimes florid, always precise, and wickedly elusive with double entendre. The author claimed that “Gatsby started out as one man I knew and then changed into myself…” Knowing Fitzgerald’s doomed romantic life and reading his descriptions of shallow “careless” characters with opulent parties and lifestyle, it’s easy to imagine the “Jazz Age” – even without the expensive Hollywood sets.
Of course, the book is always better than the movie and the Hollywood ending usually strays from the author’s – this movie is no exception, yet the famous words that end the novel and are inscribed on the Fitzgerald gravestone are the same:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
But if you really want to enjoy the show, forget the 3D glasses and read or re-read the book first. You will thrill at the many echoes of Fitzgerald’s words.Check out my review of Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
I’ve listened to the book on audio and didn’t love it. Maybe I should let the movie inspire me to pick up the book.
If you listened to the audio version, you may recognize some of Fitzgerald’s phrasing in the movie.
I heard a film critic on NPR give quite a negative review of the movie and decided to give it a miss. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it–you may change my mind!
Like most movies based on the book, the book was better. The Hollywood glitz overshadows the book’s real message, and the ending is cut short (in the book, Gatsby’s father makes an important appearance). That said, I enjoyed the period costumes, the scenery, and got a thrill hearing some of Fitzgerald’s phrases sprinkled in the dialogue.