Great Gatsby, The (1974)

“That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world: a beautiful little fool.”

Synopsis:
A mysterious millionaire (Robert Redford) purchases a house near his long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow) — a socialite who married a wealthy but philandering man (Bruce Dern) while Redford was off at World War I. With the help of his neighbor and Farrow’s second cousin (Sam Waterston), Gatsby (Redford) arranges a reunion with Daisy; meanwhile, Dern carries on an affair with the melodramatic wife (Karen Black) of a gas station owner (Scott Wilson) who knows his wife is discontented in their marriage.

Genres:

Review:
Jack Clayton’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel — co-starring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford as the infamously star-crossed lovers, Daisy and Jay — remains the best-known of those made so far (including the little-seen 1949 version), though it’s far from satisfying. It’s clear how keen the filmmakers were to show off the elaborate sets, and with all the money spent on populating Redford’s parties with so many extras and costumes, one can understand the temptation to use a lot of the footage — but there’s such a thing as too much Charleston drunknness and flappers’ feet dancing! Both Farrow and Redford are a bit inscrutable; and while few can play an irritated husband more consistently and convincingly than Dern, there’s little to genuinely appreciate about him or any of the other leading characters. Meanwhile, the dialogue is sappily embarrassing:

“Be my lover… Stay my lover.”
“I love the way you love me.”
“There’ll be other summers.”

Film fanatics may be curious to check this one out once for its visuals, but it’s not the classic it perhaps could have been.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gorgeous cinematography and sets


Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one.

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One Response to “Great Gatsby, The (1974)”

  1. Agreed; skip it.

    I rewatched it about a year ago – most likely for the first time since its release. It’s a singularly tedious film.

    Clayton would have seemed a good choice as director. Though he had slightly more of a career as a producer, he only made 7 feature films himself. My favorites of those: ‘The Innocents’ (about as perfect a film as there is), ‘Our Mother’s House’ and ‘The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne’. It’s unfortunate that Clayton didn’t make more films.

    Although the film as a whole is unwieldy anyway, its downfall is twofold: the awful miscasting of Farrow (who, throughout, is playing an idea of a character instead of a character) and the fact that there is just about no on-screen chemistry between her and Redford. Redford is actually somewhat better (though that’s not saying a lot in this case) when he’s not sharing a scene with Farrow. Not being a performer with an especially large range, Farrow is at least better when a role suits her and she has a very confident director. Certainly Clayton had reason to be confident – but not when his leading lady is much less than ideal.

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