JT Film Review

82 – The Great Gatsby (1974)

The Great Gatsby REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Jack Clayton

Cast – Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Sam Waterson, Scott Wilson


The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is required reading in many schools, and has made its mark on many writers since its publication in 1925, despite its original unpopularity. It is now seen as a classic American novel.

I have found that adapting books into films is usually done for one of two reasons. One, that the book is popular and would make a large profit based on its popularity, or two, that the book is very good and would work well within the cinematic format. Unfortunately I think the motive in this case was the former, even though the book is certainly good enough for the latter.

The production in general is drab, uninteresting, and very much in the line of  TV movies. While the story is dealt with in a fairly efficient manner, it is told with such a lack of energy that it becomes boring.

The actors in almost every case are either bad or miscast. Robert Redford is terrible for the part  of the withdrawn and somewhat bitter Gatsby. It reminds me of the story (possibly true) of when Redford wanted the part in The Graduate that would eventually go to Dustin Hoffman. When he questioned why he didn’t get the part, the director asked him if he’d ever “struck out” with a girl. Redford asked “What do you mean?” The director said “Exactly.” The point being that Redford is too good-looking and too charismatic to play a loner whose girl wouldn’t wait for him when he went to war. He does his best, but essentially can’t get past his own style.

The only actors who get out of this unscathed are Sam Waterson and Scott Wilson. Sam plays the movie’s narrator, the man from whose eyes we see the story. Scott Wilson plays George Wilson, a simple man who owns a garage and is constantly put upon by the upper class folks. Both these actors are natural yet add a welcome sense of urgency to the story.

In the end the only thing that keeps the movie going is that it is based on such good source material. There a couple good shots that piqued my interest though. One (which is repeated several times) is a shot of Gatsby’s pool and house, featuring blue and white curtains waving idly by the topaz water and white marble columns. It is a wonderfully mood-setting shot. The other thing is “the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg”, a sign which looms over the road to New York. This famous image from the book is replicated perfectly here.


The cast and plodding pace of  The Great Gatsby is really what stops it from reaching its potential. The story is good, but isn’t allowed to soar. Robert Redford is miscast awfully, and Mia Farrow overacts as the ditsy Daisy. As an adaptation of a classic work of literature this movie falls well below what it could have been, but because of the good source material it manages to scrape by as a watchable movie.



“The Great Gatsby” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



April 8, 2010 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Romance, Year - 1970-1979 | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment