By Jessica Chong
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, and Baz Luhrmann’s movie adaption can hardly be compared -– while entertaining and elaborate, the film doesn’t stay true to the text.
Luhrmann, the film's director and producer, caters to the pop culture appetites of our generation with hip hop soundtracks, whereas Fizgerald’s wrote with his 1920s audience in mind. Having read the book before seeing the movie, I was correct in my expectation of a vast difference in storytelling, especially with the hype surrounding the costumes designed by Prada and award-winning set designer Catherine Martin.
There may be many negative reviews circulating around online criticizing the way Luhrmann stays true to his own ambitious vision of The Great Gatsby. Rather than keeping intact all the subtleties of the plot and poetic beauty of the lines, Luhrmann makes it known that the movie is his for fixing and adapting to the modern movie-goer’s palette.
The costumes and set design are showy, beginning with the introduction of Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker at the Buchanan’s home that had lightweight sheer curtains blowing around the room. I found myself distracted by the dancing and singing acts that are supposed to form the backdrop to the scene, rather than the conversation between the main actors.
As much as the visuals may be over the top, one redeeming factor of the film has to be that some of the background costumes designed by Prada. Daisy Buchanan was a beacon of fashion, donned in Prada and Tiffany’s jewelry. I could hardly take my eyes off the outfit she wears to Gatsby’s party. Her fur coat with the diamond tassels was elaborate and brought Fitzgerald’s description to life.
Luhrmann seems to be striving for too much in all his theatrics. Watching words from the novel run across the sky with Maguire’s voice-over appears amateurish at best, and the movie is too busy at times going from one panning view to another.
Yet, there is definitely an appeal to watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting, even amongst all the wild pageantry and showy set design going on. DiCaprio’s acting and the costumes themselves were among the highlights of the show, presenting a feast for the eyes in its continuous and surreal dazzle.
Not many movie producers stay true to an author’s creation, and Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby adaption is no exception. He tells a story of his own that sticks with the basic plot of love entanglement and wealth riddled with love affairs and tragedy.
I’m glad that I’ve read the novel and seen the movie , so that I can join in the conversation. As for it being a must-see, that is debatable. Go to be entertained and to watch a feast of soundtrack and set design unfold, but don’t expect to learn much about what Fitzgerald shows more beautifully and delicately of the 1920s.