The Greater Gatsby? Book or Film?

SPOILER ALERT: This review discusses The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the 2013 movie produced under the same name. If you plan to read or watch either of these works in the future, it is advised you wait to read this article.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered to be a classic work of American Literature, depicting the life of a group of characters in the roaring 20’s. Several movie adaptations of the movie have been made, the most recent of which was released on May 10, 2013.

So the immediate question is, how do they compare? The book is already considered a classic, but did the movie do it justice? I think it came pretty close.

Let’s start with the book. The Great Gatsby was an excellent work. Not only does it have an interesting story, it gives a great historical perspective on the early twentieth century. While the main characters are essentially trying to iron out relationship issues from years past, which isn’t the most interesting part of the story, it is punctuated by some wildly overbearing 1920s parties that are.

Mix in some illegal bootlegging funding the parties, and you have a much more interesting backdrop to the main storyline between Gatsby and his now-married previous girlfriend Daisy. So, I think there is something to appeal to a wider audience. You can enjoy the action-packed background, or read it for the character interaction.

Finally, being in high school, I have to give the book some points in the category of having “literary merit”, as it has been phrased by the College Board. In other words, it was one of my favorite books I have read for a class, so it might help out on a test one day (looking at you AP Lit/Lang). So that is an added benefit to reading an already interesting book. It truly covers all its bases.

The question is, does the movie do justice to the book. I think it makes it about three quarters of the way. The story is told, the major plot is there. I cannot complain about the main points of the movie and how it goes, but there are some stylistic details that just seemed off.

First, the music in the movie is modern. While everything else in the movie is accurate to the time, the music sounds like 2013. Stylistically, I can see why this was done. The subject of a large part of the story is the overly wild parties thrown at Jay Gatsby’s house. To today’s audience, to accompany the party scenes with 1920’s music would probably not convey the party mood.

I can see why the music was chosen, but at the same time, it is very odd to hear rap music while watching scenes set in the roaring twenties. I think it could have been meshed together better.

My second ‘complaint’ really could not be helped without a major restructuring of the movie. The book’s story is told in first person, from Nick Carraway’s point of view. Apart from Cloverfield-style camcorder views, there really is no way to tell a movie from the same view. As a result, some of Nick’s opinions, so frequent in the novel, are lost in the movie.

At the same time, I must say that the plot device developed to deal with this in the movie was ingenious. By framing the story as Nick’s journal writings as a recovering alcoholic, a touch that, at first seems off because it is not a part of the novel, the movie actually manages to retain some touch of first person. I think the movie does an excellent job portraying what it can from this point.

So, as best it could, I think the movie did a fine job of portraying Fitzgerald’s work. The Great Gatsby was worth reading, and I think it was worth the watch.


The Great Gatsby (book) ????? (4/5)

The Great Gatsby (movie) ????? (3.5/5)