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USA 1974
Directed by
Jack Clayton
144 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Great Gatsby, The (1974)

I have no idea why British director Jack Clayton is at the helm of this overlong adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel for he had no track record with this kind of production which reflects the 70s’fascination with Art Deco decadence but is short on dramatic punch. Much effort is spent on displays of Roaring Twenties fashion and lifestyle (Theoni V. Aldredge's costume design and Nelson Riddle's score won Oscars) which are contrasted with the oddly theatre-set like working class wasteland in which lives Myrtle (Karen Black), mistress to rich cad Tom Buchanan (an improbable Bruce Dern) while too-old Sam Waterston plays the wide-eyed narrator, Nick Carraway.

Centre-stage are Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. If Redford is acceptable in his elegant aloofness as Gatsby it is incomprehensible why he would be obsessed with Farrow’s shrilly air-headed Daisy. Could love be THIS blind? And even more so, for a wordly-wise, self-made adventurer? Farrow was an A-lister at the time but she is hopelessly out of her depth here in what is the worst performance of her (or possibly anyone’s) career.

The Oscar-winning script by Francis Ford Coppola preserves slices of Fitzgerald's novel which appear in Waterston’s voice-over and some of the dialogue but this only adds to the film’s strained quality. The Great Gatsby is one of those films that resonated with the temper of the times but have little to offer beyond them.

BTW: The Buchanan's daughter was played by a 6 year old Patsy Kensit who went on to become a British tabloid celebrity and serial pop-star wife. She eventually played Mia Farrow in the 1995 telemovie, Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story.




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