How to Make a Good 'Great Gatsby' Movie: A Guide for Baz Luhrmann

More
GreatGatsbyfarrow.jpg

Paramount

1974: Coppola, Redford, and Farrow

With Francis Ford Coppola on the script, and Robert Redford and Mia Farrow—six years after her critically acclaimed turn in Rosemary's Baby—set to star, the 1974 version had all the makings of success. And, with multiple Oscar and Golden Globe wins, love it or hate it, the 1974 picture stands as the most memorable adaptation.

But many would agree with Vincent Canby's critical Times review of the film, in which he wrote that the film was "as lifeless as a body that's been too long at the bottom of a swimming pool."

While Gatsby is a fast-paced read, the movie drags; there are too many glamour-shot close-ups of flowers and champagne bottles and pretty, crying faces. ("It's frivolous without being much fun," Canby wrote.) Even more than its predecessor, the movie focuses on—and sentimentalizes—the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy, and yet, their connection feels more contrived than ever. Roger Ebert, as always, put it best:

Nor, to be honest, can we quite understand what's so special about Daisy Buchanan. Not as she's played by Mia Farrow, all squeaks and narcissism and empty sophistication. In the novel, Gatsby never understands that he is too good for Daisy. In the movie, we never understand why he thought she was good enough for him. And that's what's missing.

Perhaps Canby hit it on the head when he wrote, "Mia Farrow is lovely, eccentric and unfathomable as Daisy, which may be an impossible role, one that is much more easily accepted on the page than on screen." That's exactly what makes Daisy so hard to cast now—and why it's fun to discuss the possibilities, as Jezebel and others have. Daisy is a bundle of contradictions—charming; naïve; self-serving; confused; shallow; beautiful; childish—she exudes class, but she has a vulgar side (Fitzgerald famously wrote that "her voice was full of money"). It's a much more difficult, and thankless, role than Nick—played excellently here by Sam Waterston—and even Gatsby.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Adam Eaglin is a New York-based writer and editor. He previously worked in The Atlantic's Boston office.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to a Seaside Town in Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In