The Great Gatsby: 5 Changes From The Book That Worked (And 5 That Didn’t)

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us…. So we beat on,…

Aaron Berke


The Great Gatsby

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us…. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Baz Luhrmann was certainly swimming against the current when he signed on to adapt F. Scott Fitgerald’s literary classic, The Great Gatsby. Such lyrically beautiful sentences like the one above linger in the mind for many minutes after reading them. But the dazzling poetry that Fitzgerald uses to spring his novel to life has proven notoriously difficult to adapt into film. Fitzgerald’s intricately woven ideas cause the mind to wander in so many wonderful directions, and by nature are up to the reader’s interpretation. When a director gives them a, well, direction, the ideas lose their freedom to wander.

I was therefore pleased to watch Luhrmann’s adaptation and discover that his visual dazzle is the perfect compliment to the excesses and profundity of Gatsby’s world. His dizzying camera angles, swirling colors, and impeccable rhythm managed to find an impressive visual counterpart to Fitzgerald’s words. Luhrmann’s Gatsby is therefore a success, and as an immense fan of the book I think he did a tremendous job finding the movie’s tone. However, as is inevitable with any filmic adaptation, there is material that is altered, slightly or heavily, or sometimes left out altogether.

Many moments in Gatsby diverge considerably from the book, whether in characterization, scene structure, or plot alteration. Most of the changes are minor, but definitely noticeable. And they’re not all bad. Some of them are quite good in fact. They may bother Fitzgerald purists, but they work in context with the themes and tone of this movie. So the point of this list then, is not to discuss the changes from the book that I liked or didn’t like, but to discuss which changes served to develop and tighten the narrative, and which changes confused or harmed the narrative.

I’ve come up with a list of 5 changes that worked and 5 that didn’t. We’ll start with the good changes…