(Archived Buzzfeed Article from 2014- by Jamie Godwin)
Last year, with the release of the newest version of the film based on the book, “The Great Gatsby,” parties were popping up, with those in attendance cheerfully donning twenties era garb and learning to dance the Charleston. I realized that I had never seen the movie, or read the book it was based on. Once, during a free preview of a movie channel, it came on television and I neglected to remember to watch it. I am not really one to fall into the latest trend so easily swept up by buzz and oftentimes whether meaning to or not, rebel a little by choosing not to participate in what I perceive to be a fad. It is a habit of mine. At the beginning of this year, I challenged myself to take the time to read, “The Great Gatsby” before ever allowing myself to watch the movie. I am a Leonardo DiCaprio fan, but the decision to pace myself in the experience was well worth it.
I fully enjoyed the book, and took the time to learn about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his infamous wife Zelda after reading it. Living close to Montgomery, AL where the Fitzgerald’s once called home only intrigued me further. There is a museum in town at the family’s place of residence that I had never visited. So, this summer, on Zelda’s birthday, the museum held a birthday party for her, and opened a “Zelda Gallery,” which was dedicated at the celebration. The Zelda Gallery is a collection of Zelda’s artwork, and is the only one in the world. I made sure to attend and learn more about the couple. Zelda’s artwork was amazing, and the museum is full of the Fitzgerald’s legacy. It was a hot summer day and as I sat in the Fitzgerald’s front yard eating a rather large piece of the most delicious strawberry birthday cake, I could feel a connection to the writer as more than just someone who wrote a book, as a person just like us, who lived and had a family, and experienced life as we do now. My boys and I sat under the shade of a huge Magnolia tree that would have been a very small thing when the Fitzgerald’s lived there, and let the breeze blow over us in the most southern fashion, becoming somewhat invested in the outcome of my own personal challenge.
The next step into my Gatsby investigation was to, of course, watch the movie. I decided to drag it out a little farther and watch the Robert Redford version first. I do enjoy Redford, but the movie was a terrible drag. Tom Buchanan was not the brute I thought he should have been and to me, Daisy was also disappointing. The story didn’t have the starkness I had imagined. I tried to take into account the time in which the film was produced, and excuse it. Disappointed as I was, I held the highest of hopes for the newer version.
All the time I had put into this somewhat mild and rewarding obsession paid off this weekend when I had the opportunity to watch, “The Great Gatsby (2013).” The movie began a little differently than I expected, but it was without a doubt the best way the film-makers could have pulled off telling the details of the story, and gracefully guiding the audience along with Nick as he recalled the experiences. The quality of the film was beyond compare and was actually, in my opinion, easier to follow than the book. I say this knowing and remembering well how much I loved reading the book. Within the first few minutes of watching, I was glued to it. When Leo came on scene and gifted us with the first big Gatsby smile, while the fireworks were going off in the background, I was actually moved to tears to see that this version was going to do Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s book justice.
The jubilant opulence was portrayed perfectly and I could feel the disdain for it as well. It was joyous and wonderful, then sad and disheartening, perfectly matching the book. The few details that were left out didn’t affect the story and the decision to include modern day music in the film was an outstanding call. It brought the whole movie into relevant focus and allows us to look at our present time and compare more easily than just considering it a tale from years ago.
The overall experience, while rather long, was nothing short of fulfilling. Happy to leave you with, read the book, ate the cake, bought the t-shirt, and watched both movies, all the while slowly falling in love with the fictional and very great, Jay Gatsby.