The Great Gatsby: Book vs Movie

For those who haven’t read the book and the very few who haven’t seen the movie.

Now, if you’re a classic book or movie fanatic, (or a hardcore Amitabh Bachchan fan) you’ve probably heard of ‘The Great Gatsby’, the masterpiece, hailed to embody the All-American dream, that we all love to fall for. The book epitomizes ambition and desperation, resonating with teenagers all around the globe. 

The book and the movie are told from a Nick Carroway’s perspective, a young man who moves to New York City in the late 1920’s with some inherited wealth to make it as a bond salesman. Nick has a cousin Daisy, who’s married to an extremely wealthy cheating husband, Tom Buchanan, as his only friend in the city; with Jay Gatsby, our pseudo-protagonist as his neighbour who happens to be in love with Daisy. Gatsby, as described by Nick is a mysterious man, with a reputation full of rumours, best known for throwing extremely lavish parties at his grand mansion. The story revolves around these characters, with adultery,  murder, drama and wild parties galore. 

The movie, directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2012-13 with Leonardo Dicaprio as the lead and a motley of great actors (including our friendly neighborhood Spider-man Toby Maguire) brings about the glitzy glamorous life of the New York elite and has done a decent job at telling us Fitzgerald’s dramatic love story. The acting by the actors was at par with Dicaprio’s Gatsby shining through identical to the book. Though Luhrmann, here steered away from giving into the stereotypes mentioned in the book, with the Jew in the book being cast by Amitabh Bachchan and no mention of any Jewish or Black people, the movie still managed to emote old New York. The score on the other hand has electronic and rap music, though not prevalent in the 20’s still gives the right energy to the first part of the movie, demonstrating the chaos of Gastby’s parties.

However, like most movie adaptations, some characters were cut out leading to a change in the story, the most prevalent being Gatsby’s backstory being narrated by Gatsby himself instead of his relatives. Another discussed topic in the adaptation is that the movie shows Nick seeing a psychiatrist after the events of the book have unfolded, thus leading him to write a book about it. Nick in the book comes off as a self aware wealthy person at the end, who finally understands the world of the elite and the way they think, however the movie leaves Nick more depressed than self aware, though many would argue self awareness in most cases does lead to depression. 

The Great Gatsby is a movie that the New Yorker described as ‘too subtle, too intricate, and too tender for a movie’ while The Guardian described Fitzgerald’s book ‘like a work of poetry, with waves of literary brilliance creating a rich and lush rhythm which you can almost tap your foot to’. The above quotes capture the essence of the movie and the book pretty well, with the movie though displaying extreme emotions at every chance it got, still failed to capture the crazy dramatic undertone prevalent in the book.

Thus, even with its 3D adaptation and lack of racist stereotypes (which were prevalent in the book) the movie didn’t quite catch the right “vibe”. Though the movie’s faithfulness to the book’s storyline should not be overlooked and if you’re too indolent to read the 150 page book, the movie is a must-watch Luhrmann classic.

– Adrika Singh