I have never consciously read a book and purposely watched the theatrical adaptation; my prerogative has been the exact opposite, whereby I actively avoid doing the two. I read Malcolm X and never saw the Denzel Washington performance, that I’m assured was robbed of an Oscar. I still rate Fight Club as the greatest movie I have personally ever seen, and I will never read the book; although, once I learned of the author, I have since read eight other Chuck Palahniuk novels. My first exposure to this phenomenon was Michael Crichton with the Jurassic Park series. I saw the original movie first, for which I was so thankful for Steven Spielberg. Then I read the follow up, The Lost World, before despising Steven Spielberg during the film release. So, if I think the story is worth its salt, then I read it; otherwise, I watch what I can of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potters, and Hunger Games of the world before saving my sensibilities.
I was originally sold on the Great Gatsby movie, because having assumed the Tom Hanks mantle without a word of praise, Leonardo DiCaprio is the most underrated actor of my generation. I must be one of the few American educated adults who wasn’t forced to read F. Scott Fitzgerald in grade school, except I knew of his reputation and decided the book should take precedence. Let me begin by saying, F. Scott’s wordplay is brilliant, as is the first half of The Great Gatsby. The characters are introduced, and their nature is well defined with background. We follow a young man, Nick Carraway, from the Midwest exposed to the surreal Eastern seaboard of riches, particularly where the legend of Jay Gatsby is in full bloom. Every character expresses a different recollection of Gatsby: is he a bootlegger? Did he kill a man? How illustrious can one soldier’s career have been? Where the grandiose questions are endless, everyone is interested in discussing him, while no one is interested in knowing him.
Without spoilers, once the Gatsby veil is lifted, we’re treated to a barely above average story. The momentum simply doesn’t carry through, and dully grasps at action sequences to distract you from waiting for the story to end. If those same action sequences are filmed right, the Great Gatsby movie has a rare opportunity to be better than a good book; and that’s exactly what the Great Gatsby is, a good book. Final rating: Bueno.