Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Movie Review - The Great Gatsby 1974

The Great Gatsby
Based on the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Sam Waterston, Bruce Dern, Mia Farrow, Lois Chiles, Robert Redford, Scott Wilson, Karen Black, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Edward Herrmann, John Devlin, Howard Da Silva, Patsy Kensit, Marjorie Wildes, and Roberts Blossom
Release Date: March 29th, 1974
Rating: ★★
To Rent

Nick Carraway is sailing the choppy waters from West Egg to East Egg to visit an old classmate from Yale and his wife, who happens to be Nick's cousin. Tom and Daisy Buchanan have a luxurious life of ponies and idleness. In fact Daisy barely is able to work up anything other than a sweat in the hot summer air until her friend Jordan mentions Nick's neighbor, a certain Gatsby who is known for his parties. But Gatsby's name is soon forgotten as Tom's mistress calls the house just as they are about to sit down to their repast. Tom is wild about his mistress Myrtle, and soon Nick is headed into New York City to spend a day cavorting with Tom and Myrtle and their new puppy. Their relationship is painted as a tragic love story, both no longer love their spouses and want to be together, but rumor is that Daisy, being a Catholic, would never allow a divorce. They live in a world of rumor and supposition. No one knows what's true or what's fantasy. And no one is gossiped about more than Gatsby. Did he kill a man? Did he go to Oxford? Did his family die and leave him a fortune? Did he earn all the money for his mansion in only three years? Soon Nick will be closer to the truth than anyone else as Gatsby invites him into his house and into his confidence. Because Gatsby needs Nick. Nick will be his conduit to Daisy. Gatsby has loved Daisy since they first met though they haven't set eyes on each other in almost eight years. Nick can be the cover for their affair and from Nick's point of view, if Tom is free to be with Myrtle why can't Daisy be with Gatsby? Their affair takes them back to their youth as they waltz about his house, he in his uniform, her in her debutante dress, yet perfect happiness is hard to find in this world, which is messy and complicated. Perhaps it's a fool's errand to think you can recapture what is lost, and they are all perfect little fools. 

The 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby is a technicolor phantasmagoria that felt like it had more in common with Roald Dahl's adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that debuted three years earlier than the original source material by F. Scott Fitzgerald. As we luxuriate over a veritable rainbow of shirts and more vintage copper jelly molds than I've ever seen I almost expected Mia Farrow to break into song using one of the many fish-shaped molds as her singing partner. Because this adaptation is all about how things look, the feel of old Hollywood, the pastel suits and shirts suitable for a revival of Easter Parade, forgetting that classic cinema actually crafted a narrative that didn't feel like one overly long photoshoot for Ralph Lauren, who actually provided Redford's costumes. That idea of the still image, the photograph, is brought home again and again with the images of Daisy plastered throughout Gatsby's private rooms. And if the visuals hadn't bombarded you enough with the director's vision the music will drive it further into your brainpan with the constant use of the song "What'll I Do." That earworm of "what'll I do with just a photograph of you" will get under your skin like an itch you cannot scratch while the actors play at being in a film while actually just sleepwalking through this piece trying to look pretty for the camera. Pretty pictures of what was and will always be a doomed romance with some heavy handed foreshadowing means the film has created it's own symbolism instead of actually bothering with any of the book's. In fact I feel sorry for Bruce Dern, while Redford and Farrow are off waltzing in prewar garb in some tragic glimpse of faded romance, he should be applauded for being memorable with what little he was given because the rest of this film could float away like one of those pink clouds Daisy wishes to put Gatsby in and no one would miss it when it's gone.


Newer Post Older Post Home