Movie Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)


Book snob rule #1: The book is always better than the movie.

Reality: I enjoyed the movie version of The Great Gatsby more than the book. *gasp*

(Note: I do abide by Book snob rule #2: Always read the book first. Let’s not go crazy here.)

I read The Great Gatsby back in 2011. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I did not love it. I don’t have a well thought out explanation as to why, but it didn’t grab me or shake me up enough to get into my favourites.

The movie, though? It grabbed me. All the stuff people are bitching about, the music, the over-the-top visuals, the casting, the framing device, it all just worked. Yes, I definitely have residual 16-year-old feelings for the Leo and Baz combo. I watched Romeo + Juliet so many times  that I can still quote it pretty accurately, and I wore out the soundtrack on CD. But it’s more than that.

Let's not focus on the fact that Leo looks approximately 8 years old in this movie.

Let’s not focus on the fact that Leo looks approximately 8 years old in this movie.

For me, the anachronisms were seamless and worked as a commentary in the vein of the more things change, the more they stay the same. The exception is the scene where a car-full of twenties flapper-types are listening to H.O.V.A, which was so jarring that people in the theatre laughed. I’m going to tell myself it was an homage to the music video for the same song, where Jay-Z rides around town on a parade float (incidentally, Jay-Z looks SO YOUNG in that video.)

I also loved that the movie was very faithful to the book. Passages are highlighted on screen as Nick writes the manuscript for The Great Gatsby as part of his recovery from a nervous breakdown. My most loved and hated lines* were highlighted this way, which made the movie experience very reminiscent of my reading experience.

I notice that the most savage reviews are American, while the Canadian press has been a little kinder. I think Gatbsy is so enshrined in the American consciousness that no adaptation will be good enough. For this Canadian, Leo + Baz + great literature + 2.5 hours in the fancy grown up theatre (they serve you drinks!) and I’m happy.

Leo Gatsby

Age appropriate Leo

*My favourite line. Super obvious, but somehow, I’d never read this, and didn’t know the ending, when I read the book. Reading this for the first time knocked me on my ass.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

My least favourite line. First of all, what the hell else are you going to blossom like? Second of all, I just can’t with the flower/vagina metaphor. It’s a little too Summer’s Eve for me.

At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.


  1. Charl

    I’ve still not seen this! I love Baz Luhrmann’s films so I completely know what I’ll be letting myself in for. Great review.

    I’m one of those people who loves Fitzgerald’s book, but I’m hoping I won’t be too precious about it. This film should be visually stunning if nothing else!

  2. CMrok93

    Good review. Not amazing, but okay watch if you’ve never read the book. But for people that have read it; it will be a bit of a bummer.

    • lauratfrey

      Yeah, I enjoyed the movie more, but I acknowledge that the book has and will continue to have a bigger impact on culture, literature, etc. overall.

      My perception has a lot to do with expectations, too. I didn’t read the book in high school, so by the time I did, it had been recommended to me so many times, and I expected to be blown away, and wasn’t, quite. On the flip side, I was scared the movie was going to be awful, given it was delayed, bad reviews, and so on. So I was pleasantly surprised.

  3. heavenali

    Glad you liked the film, I haven’t seen it – and although I read the book years ago I want to re-read it before seeing the film – will probably buy the DVD when it comes out.

  4. Sarah

    I read the book back in high school and reread it after I saw the movie. I know I’m breaking some cardinal rule, but I don’t care. I love them both so much. I thought the over the top visuals really captured that era in American history and the characters were amazing. I hate Toby McGuire, but he was a perfect Carraway.

  5. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories

    so glad to hear you enjoyed the movie. I just got done listening to the book and enjoyed it. I look forward to watching it when it comes out on dvd. Btw, I am soooo with you about the flower metaphor, it is creepy and reminds me of Monica from Friends saying she wouldnt give her flower to just anyone. funny. thanks for sharing your thoughts on the movie.

  6. Pingback: Reading Roundup: May 2013 Blogging Breakthrough | Reading in Bed
  7. Evelyn Mumford

    I saw the movie a couple of weeks back. Liked the easier pace compared to a movie set in modern times. Of course, it is extravagant. And Di Caprio is, as usual, intense and fantastic. I had imagined an epic tale as it has been touted as a classic. Here I came away disappointed.

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