CATEGORIES Movie NewsF. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" doesn't exactly have a stellar record for being adapted to the big screen. Even the book's most devout followers would argue that it is unadaptable. Nevertheless, director Baz Luhrmann took a risk, and his version of what's still considered one of the greatest pieces of literature in American history is hitting theaters this weekend.
Told through the eyes of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), the story follows Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious millionaire known for throwing lavish parties at his mansion in West Egg. Carraway, who lives in a small cottage next to Gatsby's home, soon becomes fascinated with his neighbor, as he looks to find out everything he can about him.
Luhrmann's past credits include "Moulin Rouge" and "Romeo + Juliet," so, if anything, moviegoers are in for a very unique look at this classic story of love, betrayal, and prosperity during the 1920s.
Before you head off to the theater, here are 10 things you should know about "The Great Gatsby."
1. Don't Expect a Faithful Adaptation of the Book This version of "Gatsby" is less adaptation and more interpretation. Not to say that he's changed the story itself; Luhrmann more or less sticks to the same over-arching plot of Fitzgerald's book. However, the film is filled with modern flourishes (pop music), and there are a few changes to the characters that deviate from the source material. Just remember: This isn't a history book's take on the 1920s, it's Luhrmann's.
2. It's Visually Stunning Luhrman loves inserting big, bombastic visuals into his movies, and "Gatsby" is no exception. This thing is filled with color, from the sunshine yellow of Gatsby's roadster to the bright, emerald green light shining off the end of Tom and Daisy Buchanan's boat dock. Then there are the parties -- Jay Gatsby's weekend romps, where thousands of city dwellers come pouring into his East Egg mansion to take part in the debauchery. Buhrman has layered these happenings with multi-colored confetti and shiny costumes. Also worth nothing: Gatsby's and the Buchanan's houses are every bit as opulent as Fitzgerald imagined them to be.
3. It Takes Some of Fitzgerald's Text Very Literally As in, sentences-get-typed-out-on-the-screen literally. It's a cool effect -- at least in the beginning; by the end of the film it feels forced. Then there are other moments when Luhrmann beats viewers over the head with the book's famous symbolism, meaning you get treated to shot after shot after shot of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg's eyes and how they're "watching over" everyone, as well as DiCaprio reaching out to the green light across the bay.
4. The Performances Are Outstanding Leo may not have been everyone's first pick to play Gatsby, but boy does he deliver. Also brilliant: Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire. Edgerton is terrific as the arrogant Tom Buchanan; Mulligan brings the perfect mix of beauty and haughtiness to Daisy; and Maguire plays Nick Carraway with the same excitable curiosity we found in the books.
5. Yes, There Is Rap Music Related to No. 1, if the thought of mixing Jay-Z with the roaring '20s makes you sick, you may want to save your money. However, if it doesn't, then for you ...
6. The Soundtrack Is Perfect Luhrmann recruited a talented mix of musicians for the film, including Florence + the Machine, the xx, Jack White, and the previously mentioned Jay-Z (who also serves as the soundtrack's executive producer). The music provides a perfect backdrop for the film, particularly during the dance sequences. Oh, and a special shout-out to Lana del Rey, who nails the movie's unofficial theme song, "Young and Beautiful."
7. The Second Half Is Surprisingly Boring The gorgeous scenery, the music, the characters, the punched-up story -- they're all great ... for the first 45 minutes. Once the film hits the one-hour mark, it takes a dive. It's an odd turn for Luhrmann, whose movies are anything but boring. But he seemed unable (or perhaps unwilling) to keep up the pace for the entire movie. By the time the story's famous ending arrives, it feels like an afterthought.
8. There's a Small Twist With the Story's Narrator We won't spoil it here, other than to say it doesn't really affect the film all that much.
9. The 3D Is ... OK Fans of "The Great Gatsby" (the book) were up in arms over Luhrmann's decision to turn The Great American Novel into a three-dimensional, visual thrill ride. However, the 3D isn't much a of hindrance here. Other than a few scenes and the opening credits, it mainly takes a backseat to the most important part of the movie: the story.
10. The Phrase "Old Sport" Gets Said a Lot Whether you like the movie or not, you should just accept the fact that "Old Sport" will be stuck in your head for the next week. (One fellow movie writer clocked the phrase being mentioned in the film 46 times.)