The Great Gatsby had the best use of 3-D I’ve ever seen. But how many dimensions did the actual storytelling have!?

Genre: Drama/Period
Premise: Set in the 20s, a former writer moves next to one of the wealthiest men in New York. When the man, a shadowy figure known as Jay Gatsby, invites him to one of his famous parties, he finds his life forever turned upside-down.
About: So if the frustration of coming up with a title for your script is beating you down, note that as far back as 1925, writers were still battling the issue. Believe it or not, F. Scott Fitzgerald was set on calling his novel “Trimalchio in West Egg.” It was only after friends convinced him that the title was non-specific and un-pronounceable that he turned to the title we know today. Something tells me had he not made that choice, none of us ever would’ve heard of the novel. Which makes me wonder: How many unknown classics are out there because of bad titles? Speaking of, here’s a little known fact: Gatsby was not a hit when it was first published. It was actually a bomb, leaving Fitzgerald to die believing he was a failure. It was only during World War 2 when schools started using Gatsby in their curriculum that it went on to obtain the status it has today. Baz Lurman and his longtime writing collaborator Craig Pearce adapted the novel for the screen.
Writer: Baz Luhrman and Craig Pearce (based on the novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Details: 2 hours and 20 minutes long

the_great_gatsby_movie-wide

I love this shit!

A non-comic-book, non-franchise, non-sequel, non-YA-novel-adaptation, non-Johnny-Depp, non-Pixar CHARACTER PIECE comes out in the most competitive part of the year and cleans up 50 million at the box office. Now THAT is encouraging. It makes me believe in the purity of the screenplay again. True, it did have one of the biggest movie stars in the world and the script is an adaptation of a book. But The Great Gatsby is hardly what I’d call a surefire hit. It’s a character study from the 1920s!

Now believe it or not, I’ve read The Great Gatsby. I realized a few years back that there was an off chance I might run into a literary snob at a party who saw screenwriting as an inferior type of storytelling, and this literary jerk-off might corner me with the inquiry, “And what book have YOU read recently, Carson? Or do you even READ books?” In which case I could answer, “Oh, I actually recently read The Great Gatsby. I try to revisit a classic every month or so.” And then I’d triumphantly march off, leaving a bunch of startled partygoers in my wake, amazed at my unending literary know-how. This moment hasn’t happened yet. But it will. Oh trust me – it will.

Now for those of you who ignored your reading assignments in high school or don’t revisit the classics every month like I do, The Great Gatsby is about this guy named Nick Carraway, a writer turned bond trader who moves to Long Island. While Nick is a man of modest means, he seems to have tons of friends who are uproariously rich – like his cousin Daisy, Daisy’s bestie Jordan, and Daisy’s husband Tom (a polo star).

Coincidentally, Nick’s shack is located next to another rich man, Jay Gatsby. Though he holds the biggest parties in town, nobody seems to know who Gatsby is or what he looks like. Well, one day the mysterious Gatsby sends an invitation to Nick to join one of his parties, and despite senators and mayors and celebrities and sports stars attending, Gatsby only seems interested in speaking with Nick.

Fast-forward a bit and we find out that the reason Gatsby is so keen on gaining Nick’s friendship is his secret past with Nick’s cousin, Daisy. It appears the two fell in love many years ago when Gatsby was a poor nobody soldier. The two couldn’t be together because of his lack of wealth, though, so Gatsby went about amassing as much wealth as possible over the last half-decade (most of which came from underground bootlegging) and has come back bigger and richer than everyone in town, all in the hopes of snagging Daisy, a task that’s become tricky seeing as she’s now married. In the end, the lives of all of these rich (and not so rich) folks will collide (literally) in an explosive finale, one in which Daisy will decide who she wants to spend the rest of her life with, Tom or Gatsby.

great_gatsby

There is so much screenwriting shit to talk about here, I’m not sure where to begin. Let’s start with this: Gatsby should not have worked as a screen story. It does too many things that should sabotage a narrative, the most egregious of which is having its main character be the least interesting character in the movie. Yes, Nick Carraway doesn’t have jack going on. He’s meager, insular, reactive, boring. The man’s got nothing going on in his life of interest. No intriguing backstory or flaw to talk about. Yet he’s the one taking us through this tale. What’s the deal?

The deal is that he’s a “narrator,” a device that worked quite nicely in the 1925 literary world, but which has since lost its luster. Why? Because at some point someone realized that a narrator who has absolutely nothing to do with anything is probably not main character material. If Gatsby was being written today – ESPECIALLY as a spec – undoubtedly the story would be told through Gatsby’s eyes. This is the man enduring all the interesting shit in the movie. This is the man being active, making things happen. He has the most character development, the most layers. Think about it. He’s the most powerful man in New York, yet the most insecure person you’ll ever meet. He’s draped in the most expensive clothes and vehicles and houses you’ve ever seen, yet he’s unable to see himself as anything other than a penniless nobody. He projects a fantastic life, yet it’s all a lie. He has all this money, but it was all made illegally. It’s no wonder this book has lasted as long as it has. Gatsby is the definition of a fascinating character.

Here’s where the movie ran into trouble though, and I’m not sure if it was entirely the writing or the actors portraying the characters– almost everyone here wilts in the shadow of Gatsby. There’s Nick, of course, who’s only there to offer up exposition. There’s Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) who couldn’t be more of a cliché asshole husband if he tried. And Carrie Mulligan….hmmm, I’m starting to think her time is up. There’s something very…forgettable about her. She has these beautiful sad eyes, which make you want to pick her up and carry her to safety. But she can’t seem to parlay those eyes into any kind of charismatic or memorable performance.

The character who had the most potential within the second string was Jordon, Daisy’s friend, who was always leading Nick around everywhere. However, Fitzgerald created this strange dynamic by which Nick was never allowed too deeply into these characters’ lives, preventing any sort of compelling relationships to occur. Even when the opportunity presented itself, Nick always seemed to pull away from it, as if to say, “Oh, wait, you want me to actually be IN the movie? No, thank you. I’m just going to watch from afar.” It was one giant tease watching him walk around with the flirty Jordan over and over again, only for NOTHING to happen. It almost convinced me that Nick was asexual.

For those interested in discussing structure, Gatsby does offer some talking points. Just the other day we were talking about the “mystery box.” Well, much of Gatsby is driven by the mystery box. The first mystery box is Gatsby himself! What does he look like? Why does he hide in his own parties? Who is this man?? People are constantly talking about him in hushed whispers. There are rumors, guesses, assumptions, all different, all in constant flux.

Once we meet Gatsby, there’s another mystery box (remember – always replace an answered mystery with a new mystery box!). Gatsby seems to want something. We just don’t know what. Eventually, it’s revealed to be Daisy. Finally, there’s one more mystery box, and that is: How did Gatsby accumulate his wealth? This is a big one because the man seems to be one of, if not the richest, men in New York. Everyone wants to know how he became this way.

After all the boxes are opened, the writers realize they need a final force to drive us to the end of the story. Instead of another mystery, however, they choose a goal – for Gatsby to steal Daisy away once and for all, but more specifically, for her to tell Tom that she never loved him. It’s sort of an awkward goal and I’m not quite sure if wanting someone to say a string of words is weighty enough to drive a climax, but it does end up working, as it leads to the most powerful scene in the movie, when Gatsby and Tom battle over Daisy in a steamed up New York apartment.

More importantly, from a screenwriting perspective, there’s something to learn here. You can drive your story forward with a series of mysteries, then insert a late arriving goal to take the story home. Not every movie is going to be Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the goal is established right away. A “late arriving goal” is perfectly fine, as long as you find other ways to keep your readers interested before we get there (in this case, using a series of mystery boxes).

It would behoove me not to mention the amazing use of 3-D here, the best use of it I’ve ever seen. Not so much from a technical standpoint, but from a motivation standpoint. All these other movies seem to use 3-D for the wrong reasons, as a way to make explosions seem more explosion-y. Here, it’s used to bring us back to the early 20th century. I felt like I was inside this world, however exaggerated it may have been. The costumes, the set design, the shots of the cities – it’s all immaculately put together and we’re pulled inside that world, almost to the point where we feel like we could touch it via three dimensions. Add a smashing soundtrack to the mix and this was one of the best pure cinema-going experiences I’ve had in a long time. My only complaint is an over-long second act (did this really need to be 140 minutes long??). But the pure spectacle on display almost made you forget about it.

Script

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

Movie

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth watching in the theater for sure!
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: A great reminder that many of the most fascinating characters in history are those steeped in irony. Gatsby is powerful but insecure. Successful but a crook. Irony often creates struggle inside a character, and struggle within one’s self is often the most interesting struggle for an audience to watch.

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks, Carson. Wasn’t planning on seeing The Great Gatsby, but I just might reconsider it after your positive movie-going experience.

    Here’s a short but insightful article from The Atlantic detailing some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s frustrations with working in the Hollywood system.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/05/f-scott-fitzgeralds-tense-unhappy-relationship-with-hollywood/275601/

    Pretty much echoes many of grendl’s prior comments on the same subject.

    • http://www.facebook.com/shaun.snyder.35 Shaun Snyder

      I recommend Gatsby, as well. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, but now I’m bummed because I didn’t see it in 3D.

      • Poe_Serling

        You’re right. Perhaps TGG is one of those rare films worth the extra $ to see it in 3D.

    • Citizen M

      Fitzgerald was doing real grunt work. No wonder he wasn’t happy. From his short story “Crazy Sunday” about a writer in love with a star:

      With Monday the week resumed its workaday rhythm, in sharp contrast to the theoretical discussions, the gossip and scandal of Sunday; there was the endless detail of script revision–”Instead of a lousy dissolve, we can leave her voice on the sound track and cut to a medium shot of the taxi from Bell’s angle or we can simply pull the camera back to include the station, hold it a minute and then pan to the row of taxis”

    • klmn

      Interesting article. I didn’t know that Fitzgerald coined the term “the Jazz Age.” Well, if there’s no jazz in the movie, I’ll post some here.

  • klmn

    I previewed the soundtrack album on Amazon.com and I’m not impressed. Rap and pop. i noticed Auto-Tune on at least one track. I hate Auto-Tune.

    If you’re going to make a period movie, why wouldn’t you use period music?

    I won’t be watching this in a theater. If I watch it at all it will be on video with the remote in my hand and my finger hovering over the mute button.

    • Midnight Luck

      as credits rolled, Jay-Z got top Executive Producer billing, so there you go. Jay-Z is going to be on there, and Beyonce as well.

      • Cfrancis1

        But if you know Baz’s previous work, you know he’s a big fan of using contemporary music in older settings, specifically Moulin Rouge.

        This didn’t look appealing to me but I after reading Carson’s review, I might had to check it out.

        People like period peices. Things may be different now but a lot of people enjoy stories st in distant times with different sets of rules. Downton Abbey is a great example of this. Basically a bit old soap opera set during WWI with a lot of outdated social conventions. But people love it. Many of us, myself included, romanticize the past. I’m downright addicted to Downton Abbey!

  • carsonreeves1

    Man, your comments are mean! But I kind of still like them for the free proof-read.

  • JakeMLB

    You forgot a question mark at the end of your sentence beginning with “Why”. You don’t need a comma after “subtle”. And finally, you meant “surfaced” and “just shows” (not to mention that this sentence is poorly constructed and terribly awkward). We all make mistakes. Moron.

  • Sullivan

    I found the first half to be so stylized that it was soulless. The second half was excellent though. And what’s with the conceit of having Nick narrate to a psychiatrist in a looney bin? I don’t remember that in the novel. Seemed way too artificial and unnecessary.

    • garrett_h

      I’ve read the book twice (albeit the most recent almost a decade ago) and I had zero recollection of the crazy house. For a second I thought I was in the wrong movie. I have no idea why they went that route. It was the dumbest decision ever.

      Or maybe I’m mistaken and remember the book differently. I just remember it as a straight narration. It would’ve worked fine for the movie IMO. The crazy house stuff contributed absolutely nothing to the plot.

      • Sullivan

        One big problem is now there’s an unreliable narrator whom you cannot believe or trust in what he’s telling you. In the novel, Nick was a rock solid narrator who was telling it like it was.

        • garrett_h

          Exactly. From what I could tell, the movie has Nick on some Shutter Island-style compound. For all we know, he’s some stalker psycho obsessed with the uber-rich and he’s making all this up. Add to that the fact that his personal life isn’t delved into once. Gatsby is in almost every single scene Nick is in, whereas in the book he had his own separate experiences. Terrible choice.

          • witwoud

            Hmmm. Bizarre. Perhaps someone’s watched Amadeus once too often?

        • http://twitter.com/Adele_Quested Eudora Quilt

          Nick was not certifiably insane and fairly neurotypical, but a rock solid narrator? A narrator who goes out of his way to humbly praise himself for his extra-ordinary honesty? You don’t hear any irony basically screaming in your face?

          Still I agree, the movie’s framing device was obnoxious.

  • http://twitter.com/jaexhkim jae kim

    this is one of those movies I wasn’t going to see based on what I saw in the trailers. they show massive parties, fast cars, and other cinematic eye candies, but not much else. like carson pointed out, the story is not told from the point of view of gatsby, which makes sense now. I assumed this would result in a style over substance cinematic experience, but carson’s review, maybe I’m wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/jaexhkim jae kim

    i have a question. which is a better way to drive your story forward? a strong goal with mini goals in between, or a good mystery?

    I personally don’t like mystery driven stories. I prefer strong goals. I think this issue came with the article on jj abrams. I didn’t enjoy super 8, but thought star trek was awesome.

    • JakeMLB

      You’re over-thinking it. There is no best way. What’s best is what’s best for your story and your characters. Mysteries and goals are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are almost always interrelated.

    • grendl

      Another great quote cited in Andrew Stanton’s TED talk by playwright William Archer.

      “Drama is anticipation mixed with uncertainty.”

      The good stories have both of them. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the four city dwellers who insult the country folk before they head down the river in “Deliverance”.

      We know their plan, To have a cool adventure on the river. What they got, well, if they’d known what lay in store for them they probably wouldn’t have gone.

      Goals are important to establish. But in drama its even more important to throw a wrench in the works, and force characters to change their game plans.

      All stories are mystery driven in that we want to know how our protagonist gets out of their dilemma. And protagonists in a way are all detectives, sifting for clues as to how to accomplish that. When flaws are involved, fears to me more exact, they’re reluctant detectives, so you have to impress upon them the need to be proactive in solving the mystery.

      Not relying on safe harbors or allies, which will be stripped from them in the second act.

      Goals change in good movies. They say no battle plan survives the first battle. It would be a good thing to make that battle a surprise.

  • MayfieldLake

    I have tremendous respect for Fitzgerald’s book because it’s a study of a fascinating character but I don’t actually enjoy reading it. Not at all. I feel like it’s a book I’m supposed to pretend that I like because it’s a “classic” and to say that I think it’s a bore goes against every ounce of my white privileged educated upbringing.

    The same goes with Baz Lurhman. I am awed by his movies and respect his work greatly. He certainly has an eye for detail that I appreciate. And yet I don’t actually enjoy watching his work. It’s simply a matter of personal style. For me he’s too… quirky?

    With that said, I am happy to see this film get made and do well because, as Carson said, it’s at least a refreshing change from Bat/Iron/Super/Spider/_____man sequels.

  • IgorWasTaken

    Carson, what about the narrator in “The Shawshank Redemption”?

    And what’s the difference between a “mystery box” (good) and “lack of a clear goal” (bad)?

  • Citizen M

    You missed Baz Lurman. S/be “Luhrmann”. But I don’t read Carson for spelling lessons.

  • http://twitter.com/JLHeadScripts J. Lawrence Head

    How faithful was the final product to the script?

  • gazrow

    “I love this shit!
    A non-comic-book, non-franchise, non-sequel, non-YA-novel-adaptation,
    non-Johnny-Depp, non-Pixar CHARACTER PIECE comes out in the most
    competitive part of the year and cleans up 50 million at the box office.”

    True it’s none of the above. But it’s still nevertheless a remake! The original starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I remember being forced to sit through it when I was a kid and being bored silly. Yet, if I watched it now I’d probably love it! How times change!

  • Montana Gillis

    This is the forth try for Hollywood on Gatsby. I read the book and watched Redford’s Gatsby (boring). I refuse to go see a movie that has tanked multiple times. Well… Maybe if it was in 4D with naked female invaders from space putting a sweaty Daisy in chains and a Hooters outfit and make her wash cars in the hot soapy sun! Yeah!

  • witwoud

    Carey Mulligan is more than a pair of beautiful sad eyes. She also has dimples. I’ve watched Bleak House a dozen times just to catch a glimpse of them, and every time they appear I sigh a thousand sighs.

    Um, that’s all I’ve got today.

  • ThomasBrownen

    I read the book a few years ago. Not a huge fan of it. I thought it was over-written, relied too much on symbolism instead of character development, and I just couldn’t get into it. (I had similar issues with Moby Dick, although there was something to Melville’s sweeping rhetoric that I liked.) Is it wrong of me to think that…?

    Anyhow, I saw an interesting article classifying this as a woman’s movie earlier today. It noted that the actors, the romance, and the costumes in the movie were marketed to women, and the financial success of this movie has shown that women can make movies into blockbusters as much as male-oriented movies can. I’m not sure The Great Gatsby is a movie primarily for women, but it was an interesting observation I thought I’d pass along.

    • http://twitter.com/V3ntricity Mercutio

      you can say many things about the great gatsby, but “overwritten” is not one of them. “moby dick” on the other hand is filled with endless descriptions of things that have no importance to the story. but maybe you define “overwritten” differently

  • Midnight Luck

    I saw Gatsby last night. (NoN-3D)

    At about the 1 hour and 45 minute mark, about when things were kicking into finale gear, a shift happened in the audience.

    The BOREDOM was infecting everyone, including myself. A collective thought of “When is this going to be over” spread throughout the entire theater and people got really shifty.

    A bunch of rich people with what kind of problems? who cares?

    +++SPOILER++++ Then as Gatsby is trying to force Daisy to tell her husband she never loved him, it was so NOT earth shattering, yet it was supposed to be. It really just made you want to laugh.

    I think this movie suffers deeply from Time Period-itis. It may have been fantastical, and shocking and interesting Decades and Decades ago. Maybe in the Fifties? or even earlier, but, now, I am sorry, we are in an entirely different age. 50% of marriages end in Divorce. We have such a different idea of what happens in, after, and before marriage. We have a freedom, we don’t trade daughters to become wives for Land or Cattle anymore (thankfully), we have Banks bailed out for 700+ Billion dollars after stealing our money and our houses out from under us. We basically are in a time when the Grandiosity of a movie about Rich people doesn’t sit right. And I know it is actually more about a Love story supposedly, but that part of the story actually was the most ineffective of the entire thing. We just didn’t care.

    I think the problem with the love story is, as Carson said, it is kept as a mystery. +++SPOILER++++ So we don’t know until much later how important their love is, then it is shown in Flashback as our way of discovering it, then a bunch of exposition trying to explain throughout the movie why their love is so profound. And how she went off and married a rich dude because she couldn’t wait for Gatsby. Why? I am not sure, because Gatsby (or whatever his real name was) wasn’t rich? Again, it doesn’t fit with our idea of things. Yes, we understand it used to be that way, but there is something so ARTIFICIAL and / or MANIPULATIVE about how we are supposed to be in Awe of all these parties and mansions and cars and money. Never did we feel the reality of the love, except briefly, but only from Gatsby, never do we see it from Daisy.

    This is one of the TWO best parts of the film. +++SPOILER++++:

    #2: When Gatsby wants to meet Daisy at Nick’s house, and he is so beside himself with nerves it looks like he can’t do it. He is a mess. I laughed when he breaks the clock, it was a great moment. There were many good moments during that scene. That was #2 of the Two good parts of the movie.

    #1: the greatest part of the entire movie was….. Jordan Baker. I am just going to look in my Crystal Ball here and say we will see a lot more of Elizabeth Debicki. I believe this will propel her to stardom, much like An Education did for Carey Mulligan. Debicki was by far the greatest part of Gatsby. She ROARED onscreen. She lit up every single scene she was in. She made you excited to watch. You hoped she would reappear. But they pulled her away from us. They didn’t allow us to get to know her. A movie about her would have been worth watching.

    It is interesting that The Great Gatsby has long been known as one of the biggest FAILURES in Hollywood history. So much money was put into a previous version and it failed terribly. It lost the companies so much money it was famous strictly for it’s Failure. Much like ISHTAR, years later was another movie, strictly famous for being such a colossal loss of money and failure at the box office. I think this was a calculated movie and because of 3D, DiCaprio, and Baz it is a success. I don’t think the story has ANY need to be told. In that regard it is a failure.

    [xx] Not for me

    [xx] Wait for it to play free on TV

    But they got my money. I went with a group of over 100 people so we got a Really good discount on our tickets. So, the first hour to hour and a half was kind of fun, then it went off a cliff.

    • http://twitter.com/Adele_Quested Eudora Quilt

      “We basically are in a time when the Grandiosity of a movie about Rich people doesn’t sit right.”

      Which is exactly why it’s relevant. It’s supposed to make you feel somewhat sick and hollow. Because it’s really not much of a love story at all and it’s not supposed to be. The point is that Gatsby doesn’t even know Daisy; he needs her as the damsel in distress, the carrot on a stick, the green light to fuel his myth-making. He needs her to finally choose him to mark his arrival. And the point is that Daisy will never choose Gatsby, no matter how much he achieves. Because of course it’s not about love, and certainly not about merit and not even about money. It’s about class, and privilege and origin, the limitations of the myth of the self-made man, the way we always end up being born back into the past, no matter how hard we beat against the current.

      A contemporary Daisy would never choose a contemporary Gatsby either and the availability and convenience of divorce has really nothing to do with it.

    • Tom Star

      I actually agree with every single word you’ve written. Hated the movie, found it mind numbingly boring… but I loved Elizabeth Debicki.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaun.snyder.35 Shaun Snyder

    Speaking of mistakes, “ter,” I think you spelled your name wrong. There should be a “d” at the end of it.
    Sorry. Usually, I’m nice on this site, but this guy kinda deserved it…and yes, I used “kinda” instead of “kind of.” Sue me.

  • Kay Bryen

    For all this century-old talk about how F Scott Fitzgerald was betrayed by the soulless Hollywood machine… In David Niven’s autobiography he describes how a director brought shooting to a halt and roped in Fitzgerald to perform a script revamp. S-Fitz then proceeded to spend the next weeks coming to work drunk off his ass while ‘busy’ on the rewrite – with each day’s delay costing the studio an absolute fortune. Eventually he turned in his reimagined masterpiece and:

    “Shooting resumed with only – so far as I was able to make out – extremely superficial changes to the script.”

    Hollywood gets a lot of flack, but remember that even the most unlikeable antagonist has its own side of the story.

  • Poe_Serling

    All excellent points.

    Just read a great article on Deliverance, which just happens to cover some of the same ground. No author listed.

    “The canoeists’ journey is a stylized rite of passage… a journey into the unknown in which they must brave terrors, lose something but emerge wiser… Rather than protest against the damning of a river, the men exploit it in a different way, using their city money to humiliate the locals, already improverished by urban exploitation. Soon the rural landscape becomes little more than an arena for the testing of urban man, an ordeal that reveals, in a manner simultaneously horrific and reassuring, that the modern city dweller can still kill.”

    • grendl

      It’s a classic film. James Dickey, the writer of the book played the sheriff at the end, something I only found out recently from cinephile.

      The fact that the loudmouth, most arrogant member of the group and also most condescending towards the country folk gets the lion share of the punishment shows the karma of fiction.

      Not Ed, the everyman who is more sensitive than Ned Beatty’s character. We can only sympathize with Beatty who suffers an unimaginable fate, but we empathize with Jon Voight’s character.

      Thus the difference between sympathy and empathy.

      The story expertly removes archetypal characters from the equation, the alpha gorilla/man of action Reynolds, the man of reason and law Ronnie Cox, and the great American blowhard Ned Beatty so that the everyman is left alone to face his foes.

      That makes it us against that foe, because we empathize with the everyman in a film.

      • Poe_Serling

        Besides playing the sheriff at the end, Dickey, along with an uncredited Boorman, adapted his book into the screenplay.

        What I didn’t realize was that the novel was selected by the editors of Modern Library as #42 on their list of the 100 best 20th-Century novels… talk about having outstanding source material for a film.

        And the number two book on the above list? The Great Gatsby.

    • sweetvita

      Hey, look what just showed up in my inbox from The Playlist:

      http://tinyurl.com/bt2p6uo

      And here’s a lil sneak peek about casting, canoes and Marlon Brando.

      2. The Marlon Brando Rumor Is True
      John Boorman confirmed that Marlon Brando was in serious consideration to play macho outdoorsman Lewis Medlock, the role that later went to Burt Reynolds. Boorman said he spoke to Brando about the part and Brando asked, “I wouldn’t have to get into one of those canoes, would I?” which apparently killed the chance of that gig every happening.

      Enjoy, PoePedia ;)

      • Poe_Serling

        Thanks for sharing. That part about Brando turning down the role because of the canoe is classic!!!

  • garrett_h

    It’s hard for me to separate the book (which I read and enjoyed in high school and again in college) from the movie, but I’m gonna do it anyway.

    First of all, I really enjoyed the film. I found it to be very entertaining. And taking my wife to see it and watching her reactions, her never having read The Great Gatsby and being excited and surprised by the story may have had something to do with it. But it was a very enjoyable moviegoing experience.

    From a script standpoint, this thing took FOREVER to get going. I knew they were going to tease the Gatsby reveal and draw it out. That’s fine. But sooooo much of the first act is Tobey Maguire and his soulless narration. If it wasn’t for the amazing visuals I would have walked out.

    Things FINALLY get going around the midpoint, But really, the script was the weakest part of the film for me. Literally EVERYTHING else was better. The cinematography. The set design. The costumes. The soundtrack. The only other thing I found lackluster was the performances. Leo was great, as usual. And I found myself hating Joel Edgerton and forgetting he was actually Joel Edgerton. But Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan almost ruined it for me. They were so flat.

    But in the end, this film reminded me that movies are a VISUAL medium. We as writers sometimes get carried away with our words on the page and “How dare this producer/director/actor demand changes!” Then a movie comes along where the precious script was carried by everything else and it puts things in perspective.

    And really, if you want your script to make it to the screen, you better have an overall vision right there on the page. Because there are plenty of great stories collecting dust in studio vaults. It’s the ones that are complete FILMS that get made. That was the main thing I took away from this one as far as a screenwriting standpoint.

  • AdamG

    Damn Carson, you get every high-profile script that seems to squirm its way past the studio execs, how the hell do you obtain these things? Even a member of TB couldn’t get their hands on them. Boy, must it be good to be a “Carson”.

  • K.B. Houston

    Thanks for contributing constructively to the conversation, moron. These types of comments really move the world ahead in the right direction! Next time you get ready to lambast someone simply because you CAN, just sit it out. This is a place for grown ups, not cowards who hide behind a computer screen and say worthless, idiotic, mean things that they’d never say to someone’s face in real life. You’re worthless.

  • K.B. Houston

    To me, this is a classic example of Hollywood making some uber-hyped, over-the-top, marketable extravaganza simply because they KNOW they’re gonna make a boat load of money off it and can find lots of pretty faces to fill in the roles. People know how important The Great Gatsby is to our culture and when you combine that with 3-D (America’s favorite way of seeing the world!), you know people are gonna go out of their way to see it in theaters.

    The problem?

    If you’ve ever read The Great Gatsby you know just how ill-suited it is to be adapted onto the big screen. It’s a great book because it’s a zeitgeist and came equipped with the type of diction that typified the great writing that existed at the time. But The Great Gatsby is NOT a great story. It has no real interesting mysteries or plot twists. In fact, it’s a pretty dull story overall. I didn’t enjoy the book all that much and I doubt I’d enjoy the movie.

    I understand Hollywood makes a lot of bad movies, a lot for the sake of profit that over rely on visual effects — but this is just frustrating. If you’re dead set on adapting a classic American novel at least chose one that has adaptable elements. 180 pages of arresting syntax about a rich guy who can’t get EVERYTHING he wants in the world is not exactly an adaptable element.

    • http://twitter.com/V3ntricity Mercutio

      i’m so dumbfounded by these people who thinks adapting a book to screen is just a mechanical process. a book is a different medium of storytelling. there are many ways of adapting a book, but if you are going about it making sure you tick all the boxes in a linear fashon, then you’ll have a lame movie. basically there are only two ways: making sure the spirit of the book is intact, and consentrating on one or more elements in the film and expand that(meaning a lot of the book will not make it).

      there are no books that cannot be made into a movie, it’s only execution.

  • wlubake

    I was watching this (in 3-D) last night and kept thinking to myself: The Notebook totally rips this off. I wonder, has Nicholas Sparks ever acknowledged this?

    I loved the movie. The 3-D certainly added to the viewing experience. Visually, as Baz tends to do, it delivered.

    Gatsby is my favorite book (along with Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities). The prior adaptations underwhelmed, but this version nailed the most important aspect of the book: Gatsby. Leo had much to do with this. More importantly, though, they showed all the sides to Gatsby. His fear, insecurity, ruthlessness, and hope. In prior versions, he just always seemed like the coolest guy in the room.
    I did have some problems with the film. First, as has been noted here, certain cast is grossly underutilized. Jordan and Myrtle stand out the most. This is really Gatsby’s movie, but Tom had a much bigger role than he did in the book. He was Gatsby’s foil. I thought this was a very good decision, and felt Tom was masterfully played by Edgerton. My wife walked out of the theater saying that she felt sorry for him at times. He was a bastard, but she didn’t hate him.
    One of the best aspects of the book (and why it is so often used in high school classes) is its use of symbolism. This movie beats you over the head with it, though. Not only by showing the imagery (the eyes, the green light), but telling you EXACTLY what they are supposed to symbolize, over and over again. Have some respect for your audience, guys.
    Finally, I agree that Nick was poorly written. The asylum frame to the story felt shoe-horned in, and Maguire did not convince us that it belonged. He shined while marveling at Gatsby or Daisy. He had a simple innocence that reminded me of his role in Cider House Rules. But whenever Nick called for range, any departure from that simplicity, he missed the mark.
    I’d recommend the movie to anyone. It is fun. It lacks the depth of the book, but most movie adaptations do.

  • rosemary

    Never was fan of the book so this movie isnt for me. Glad you like it tho

  • FitzFan

    For those of you reading the very mixed reviews or worried that, liking the novel, a movie version of the same events won’t stand up, I urge you to take a chance with this. I had to be dragged to see it, was certain that I would dislike it, have never really like Baz Luhrmann, and I’m sure my heel marks are still on the pavement outside the theater as I was dragged in and pushed into a seat by someone who had a much better idea of how the movie could succeed than me.

    Within five minutes I was thinking, This could work. Within ten minutes I was sold.

    The best movie I’ve seen this year. I didn’t see it in 3D but if I went to see it again might choose too.

    For writers, Fitzgerald is an interesting case. Most wouldn’t consider him America’s best novelist but quite possible he has written our best novel, proving that it is possible to write “above yourself” at times. The downside, and it’s a big one in his case, is that nobody at the time recognized the novel for what it was and he died in his early 40′s thinking it was a failure.

    The movie shows him writing The Great Gatsby in a sanitarium as an assignment from a doctor to help him regain his sanity! That was grossly insulting to Fitzgerald but thankfully was the worst mistep.

  • http://twitter.com/Adele_Quested Eudora Quilt

    of course nick can’t hook up with Jordan – he’s in love with Gatsby!

    also, if Gatsby were the main character, he’d be less compelling as the mystery box.

  • jridge32

    It’s like someone told DiCaprio to say “old sport” 810 times per scene and look very tan… character.

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