8. The Great Gatsby (2013) – Directed by Baz Luhrmann
The plot: The Great Gatsby is not just a novel, it is a time-travel device – one that brings us to the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald gives his readers a magnificent idea of what it was like to live in a time that was both so exciting, but simultaneously terrifying. In both the novel and the adaptation, we follow the narration of Nick Carraway, a young and naive war veteran that is drawn into the extravagant world of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Only when Nick is already in too deep does he comes to realize that there is a dark side to the decadence and magic of Gatsby’s world.
Why the adaptation works: In a way, The Great Gatsby is about the excess and the extravagance of the Roaring Twenties, but it is also about the dark, secret underbelly of this world. Director Baz Luhrmann is the ideal choice to adapt this story, because he is a master in both portraying extravagant and epic drama. His Oscar-nominated masterpiece “Moulin Rouge!”, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in their most iconic roles, is proof for this statement. Nonetheless, “The Great Gatsby” received very mixed reviews upon its release in the summer of 2013. Peter Travers, from Rolling Stone, writes: “There may be worse movies this summer than “The Great Gatsby,” but there won’t be a more crushing disappointment”. Todd McCarty from The Hollywood Reporter, doesn’t agree. “No matter how frenzied and elaborate and sometimes distracting his technique may be, Luhrmann’s commitment to the material remains palpable.”
In my opinion, Luhrmann does a fantastic job in adapting Fitzgerald’s classic novel. Despite the excessive beauty and over-the-top production design, Luhrmann stays so very true to the heart of the story: Gatsby’s secret. The focus of the film is on the fact that Gatsby spent a decade building this ode to the woman he never stopped loving: Daisy. This is the very core of the film, and it is as beautiful and dramatic and epic as one could expect from a Luhrmann film.