The film, Great Gatsby is an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgeralds 1974 novel under the same title. For the most part, the film departs majorly from the letter of Fitzgeralds book. Director Baz Luhrmanns adaptations departure from Fitzgeralds novel starts at the start of the film. In the frame, the narrator Nick Carraway, sometimes after spending a summer with Gatsby checks himself into a clinic, following a doctors diagnosis of morbid alcoholism. In Fitzgeralds novel, Nick refers to Gatsby as the individual who gave his name to the book, implying that Nick is not essentially the author of the text. However, Luhrmann goes as far as depicting Nick as writing by hand, typing and compiling the manuscript of the book. In the film, Nick even inserts Gatsby as the title of the text before manually adding The Great as a concluding flair. Also, with regard to the issue of morbid alcoholism highlighted in the film, in the novel, Nick notes that he had only been drunk twice in his life. However, the film implies that Nick is in denial of his alcoholism by depicting him crossing out the word, once and inserting twice regarding the number of times he has been drunk. As such, the film suggests that the number was higher than that.
Also, the film cuts out one of the novels side stories, specifically the relationship between Nick and Jordan Baker, an acquaintance of Daisys and renowned golfer from Louisville. In the novel, Daisy vows to set them up, but this aspect is missing in the film. In the film, Nick notes that he initially found Jordan frightening, a term Carraway does not use in reference to Jordan. Also, the film includes a scene where a male companion whisks away Jordan. This scene does not exist in the novel, instead of Nick and Jordan ultimately become a couple before breaking up toward the conclusion of summer.
Notably, like the novel, the film is a sequence of set pieces that consist of an unplanned party thrown by Tom in a Manhattan apartment, which he maintains for his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, the wife of a mechanic in Queens. In the film, Nick accompanies the couple to the apartment and sits quietly in the living room while the couple loudly has sex in the bedroom. In the book, Fitzgerald does not explicitly describe Tom and Myrtles relations but rather subtly hints at them by noting that Tom and Myrtle disappeared and only reappeared moments before other guests arrived while Nick read a book. Another aspect added to the film that does not exist in the novel involves Myrtles sister offering Nick a pill that she notes she acquired from a doctor in Queens. Furthermore, in the film, Nick awakes at home, half-naked and uncertain of how he arrived there. On the other hand, in the novel, the narrator points out that he regained consciousness in a house owned by his friend, downstairs from Myrtle and Toms apartment, before going to the train station to catch the 4 oclock train home.
Another major discrepancy between the novel and film Nicks introduction to Meyer Wolfsheim. In the novel, Gatsby invites Nick to lunch at a cellar where he introduces Nick to Jewish gangster, Wolfsheim. However, in the film, Gatsby goes with Nick to a barber shop with a concealed entrance into an illegal establishment that sells alcohol where they encounter Wolfsheim and the police commissioner. The establishment also features entertainment from an array of dancers, none of whom are mentioned in the novel.
On the other hand, the film disregards the racist elements within the novel. For instance, the film casts an Indian actor as Wolfsheim rather than an individual who meets Fitzgeralds description of a small, Jew with a flat nose and massive head and two growths of hair from either nostril. By casting an Indian, the film remains true to the otherness of Wolfsheims character, which avoiding the anti-Semitism of Fitzgeralds characterization that was highly stereotypical. However, the movie maintains key passages from the book concerning race, including Toms announcement concerning a racist book titled Rise of the Colored Empires, as well as Nicks attack on intermarriages between whites and blacks.
Lastly, toward the end of the novel, Myrtles husband, George Wilson, murders Gatsby thinking he was having an affair with his wife and had murdered her. Fitzgerald does not describe the murder, but rather points out that Gatsby picked a pneumatic mattress, and went to his pool before his chauffeur heard gun shots. However, the film does not depict the pneumatic mattress and instead adds dramatic flair to Gatsbys death. While in both the novel and film Gatsby is awaiting Daisys call, in the film, Nick calls, prompting Gatsby to leave the pool to answer the phone at which point George shoots Gatsby who dies believing that Daisy would leave Tom for him. Notably, neither of this happens in the novel. Significantly, Gatsbys death in the film appears crueler than in the novel.
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