As a pair of nerdy English teachers, Alex and I have been awaiting the release of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby with excitement and maybe a little trepidation. After all, it’s a ubiquitous piece American literature in high schools, rivaling Huck Finn for the title of most taught (but title of most hated probably belongs to The Scarlet Letter). And, as noted in this excellent Flavorwire article, previous attempts to adapt this book have been less than successful. And it makes sense, right? One reviewer mentioned that the success of the novel is the prose, while the storyline borders on melodramatic. So, how’d they do with this version?
Granted, it’s definitely too Baz Luhrmann-y. It at times almost feels like someone parodying a Baz Luhrmann movie. But where the movie excels is in the quieter moments, the brief interludes where Luhrmann lets the amazing cast take over and do their thing. And the cast really is stellar–Leonardo DiCaprio is an excellently tweaked, yet charismatic Gatsby, Carey Mulligan plays Daisy with the right blend of charming naivete and cutting indifference, and Joel Edgerton is appropriately sinister without veering into mustache-twirling territory. I agree with other reviewers who haven’t liked Toby MacGuire as Nick–to be fair to him, the character always felt underwritten to me, and I generally dislike him in pretty much everything. Overall, a decent, but not perfect effort. It might even lure a few more readers in to that dreaded American lit. curriculum.
Want more Gatsby action? Check out Alex’s interview in the Deseret News on teaching Gatsby. He always looks so cool.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/arsart/8718940632/”>RSNY</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>