Nick Carraway, a young Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, the nouveau riche Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby's circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy. Written by
Well,it is by now the best version of Gatsby,and I've seen three of the total four(all except the 1926 version,anyway unobtainable today). I think this one came closest to the original novel,yet much different from the original Fitzgerald novel-which,by the way is one of the best,if not the absolute best American novel ever to be written. The settings,music,original quotes,the acting are accurate only up to a certain point,a careful viewer discovering many inaccurate details if the film is compared to the book-Bruce Dern doesn't resemble Tom Buchanan at all,the actual Tom Buchanan being either a hulking brute(Oliver Reed or James Garner fitting much more accurately into that description,with their animal,macho-like physical structure,Reed's character from Women in Love even being a rich heir and playboy,a careless,spoiled,selfish,snobbish,hollowly narrow-minded and depraved bully)or an inexpressively beautiful all-American WASP,the cute,unimaginative,well-educated,dull,and again snobbish boy next door(even Redford could have been more convincing as Tom Buchanan:both more convincing as Dern and more convincing than his performance of Gatsby),Gatsby's Rolls-Royce couldn't have been a 1922 car because in the film we see a Rolls-Royce Corniche from 1925,actually the events even take place in 1925,not in 1922 like in the book,since eight,not five years have elapsed since Gatsby's first date with Daisy back in 1917,Gatsby's house isn't the like the one depicted in the book,certainly not the copy of an old castle from the Normandie(for example Hearst Ranch,which stood as a model both for Fitzgerald as he described Gatsby's home and for Citizen Kane's Xanadu)would have been a good choice,Daisy's hair is not blonde but dark,while Jordan Baker actually is blond,while she isn't blond in this film.... and the list of mistaken details might continue. Nevertheless,in spite of all the flaws mentioned above,the film still captures the enthralling beauty of the roaring twenties,being visually lush-the rich colors,textures,images used are so lavish,so lush,so intense that they almost seem disturbing.The costumes are stylish and extravagantly elegant,the music is authentic jazz and makes you want to get up and dance the Charleston. But some of the actors are clearly miscast,including Redford in the title role(which he even copies two decades later in Indecent Proposal,where he appears as an unhappy,mysterious billionaire craving to re-live the love lost in his shady past and willing to pay every price for it,thinking that his money and power could buy anything and anyone).Robert Redford does a fairly good job as Gatsby,but is clearly not the best choice.Gatsby is actually more mysterious than the athletic sunny-boy Redford,maybe not even handsome,however far more charismatic,expressive,even more eccentric. Probably the only actor I could imagine as Gatsby would be Richard Chamberlain,which played the best version of The Count of Monte Cristo the same year and by far the most credible Fitzgerald biopic in the following year-Gatsby is actually a sort of Monte Cristo who reinvents himself,assumes a new name/identity,acquires and spends an immense fortune both to reconquer his lost love and to come to terms with his past.Gatsby could have been depicted in a darker way,as he made his Fortune by using shady means during Prohibition("he killed a man"...or more),an elegant character exhaling a somewhat impure,demonic,oddly compelling fascination,manipulating and vindictive,seducing,twisting everything he touches. While Mia Farrow's performance as Daisy lacks originality,style,beauty,chemistry,just about everything.It's incredible that among so many actresses contemporary to her who depicted the twenties's flapper in a convincing way-Laura Antonelli,Susan Hampshire,Julie Andrews,Brigitte Bardot,Karen Black,Glenda Jackson,Liza Minelli,Lois Chiles,Natalie Wood,Faye Dunaway(the last one unjust deprived of this part in this very movie)she was the best choice.However there is something that Mia Farrow does excellently in her portrayal of Daisy-she looks extremely superficial,careless,vapid,insensitively spoiled and incapable of being serious or reasonable for one single second. The supporting cast on the other hand somewhat balances the film's flaws:Sam Waterson is credible as a mature,reliable,discreet,modest,intelligent,trustworthy Nick Carraway,just like in the book,Karen Black and Lois Chiles are also fitting well into their roles,while Scott Wilson as the mentally troubled,yet pure husband of Tom's mistress,plays his haunting part so well,that he somewhat resembles Peter Seller's genius to depict haunting,neurotic characters(Sellers would have been right for this part too). All in all this film is pleasant to watch and entertaining,but not Jack Clayton's ultimate masterpiece-is first watched it I was seduced by its visual splendor,watching it several times again,it gradually lost the magic I remembered.
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