In our younger and more vulnerable years we heard an idea for a Hollywood movie that we’ve been turning over in our minds ever since. The movie was called The Great Gatsby and would star Leonardo DiCaprio, and would be directed by that guy who directed Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge.
It was then further explained to us that the movie would be shot in 3D for some reason, and would feature an anachronistic soundtrack with U2 songs in it and stuff — meaning that the movie would probably look and sound great, but might also be sort of stupid. But then, perhaps that’s the best thing a movie can be in this world — a fool, a beautiful little fool. Anyway, now the second trailer for The Great Gatsby is out. Let’s all take a gander, shall we?
So that’s the new trailer for this movie. And now, let’s break this down, pro-and-con style:
- Nothing could be worse than the 1974 film version, which badly miscast Robert Redford as someone who wasn’t almost forty at the time, Mia Farrow as someone who could act, and Sam Waterston as not being a person on Law and Order barking lines like, “No, this whole damn system is out of order!”
- I like Leonardo DiCaprio.
- I also like Carey Mulligan.
- I thought Romeo + Juliet was a good movie, and I’m not a chick, so I didn’t see Moulin Rouge, so mercifully I have no opinion on Moulin Rouge.
- My best friend is a chick though, and she likes Moulin Rouge.
- She also likes this song from Moulin Rouge:
- I have no major opinion on that song.
- The movie actually looks pretty faithful to the novel The Great Gatsby.
- The novel The Great Gatsby is one of the best novels ever written.
- That’s about it for the Pros. Let’s move on to the Cons…
- I learned halfway through typing this essay that the title of Moulin Rouge is actually “Moulin Rouge!” Which gives me a headache.
- Tobey Maguire + Voice-over = Bad.
- Tobey Maguire plus a lot of things equals bad.
- The movie actually looks pretty faithful to the novel The Great Gatsby. But that might be bad. Great books don’t necessarily make great movies, per se.
- Because, movie-wise, not a lot happens in The Great Gatsby. Novel-wise, a bunch of stuff happens, but not much happens that you can make a movie of, necessarily.
- The 1974 version was also a really faithful rendition of the book, and it was terrible.
But, I hold out hope. Good movies made from good books are rare. And good movies that are made from good books usually have the courage to change things about the good book in question — for instance, for example, The English Patient (which is a great movie and I don’t want to hear about it), but which also has the guts to cut out massive, massive chunks of the book, such as almost all the parts about “Kip,” and the weird digressions that the book does about the atomic bomb, and the not great-subplot where Hanna knows Willem Dafoe from before, and it also just completely changes the ending.
The English Patient still is a good book, and The English Patient (movie version) is a good movie that doesn’t really resemble the book very much. There’s a reason for this. If you could just take a book and translate it directly to the screen and have it be good, everyone would do that. Books are long. Movies are short. Books favor voice-over narration, either by the author or by the protagonist. Movies tend to die a horrible death whenever anyone starts doing voice-over for longer than three seconds (see also: Maguire, Tobey).
To summarize my not very-profound thesis: Books make better movies when the directors have the courage to fuck around with the books. Adding U2 and 3D to F. Scott Fitzgerald might be a terrible, terrible idea. Or it might be a brilliant idea. I’ll wait to see the movie before dismissing it out of hand for including a song by goddamn Bono, I guess. And as Fitzgerald himself would remind us, reserving judgment is a matter of infinite hope. Which is a good point, a really really good point. And hell, Fitzgerald made some other really good points too. You could probably read more of the things that he had to say about stuff, if you felt like it, for instance.