For decades now The Great Gatsby has widely been considered one of those unfilmable novels one always hears about whenever a classic or contemporary great of literature is about to be turned into a film and it flops. Considering Baz Lurhmanns new version starring Leonardo DiCaprio and a host of accomplished actors has raked in over $96 million in less than 2 weeks (but done so with the aid of higher ticket prices for 3-D showings and an MTV-style look and soundtrack greatly amplifying its take in the tween and teen demographic), Im not sure whether the film is still considered unfilmable or not. Whatever its final box office take is though, theres no question the film (and with apologies to every English teacher in America) and the novel it draws from suffer from serious flaws thatll rightly keep it from ever achieving unequivocal cinematic blockbuster status with a modern day audience. One of the things a modern day audience has come to expect from its protagonists, whatever the genre, is for him or her to be, absolutely proactive. He/she may start the film as a loser but at a certain point its expected that the protagonist will find him/herself at least trying to do something about it by the storys end, even if its only coming to terms with who they are. While Jay Gatsby himself demonstrates a great deal of agency, the story asks us to also identify heavily with its narrator, Nick Carraway (played in the film by Tobey Maguire), even though he is really never anything more than a pawn in Gatsbys plans to win back the woman he loves, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). The film tries to give him his own story arc by interspersing Nicks attempt to work through his nervous breakdown through his writing, but it doesnt change the fact that we are constantly watching Nick play a supporting role in someone elses tale. At one point in the story there are hints of possible romance blooming between Nick and Daisys ever-present BFF, Jordan Baker, but that goes nowhere. In the end, one has to wonder why Fitzgerald didnt go with an omniscient third-person narrator and why Nick is necessary to narrate the story at all. The answer to that is the film and the novels second big problem: the character of Gatsby himself works only as a metaphor. While this is no doubt a big reason why the novel is so beloved by English teachers everywhere, as a living, breathing character with some degree of plausibility, theres no there there. Other than aspiring to achieve the American Dream (i.e. become really really rich) and gain the acceptance of the 1% (in the form of Daisys hand in marriage) Gatsby has no discernible interest in anything else whatsoever. While many argue that Gatsbys one of the great romantic characters or a tragic hero Im not sure whats so romantic or heroic about a character whose only motivation is spending five years building up an estate seductive enough to woo the 1920s equivalent of Paris Hilton. The story might be more suitable for a throwaway Harlequin romance if the object of his affections were more worthy. Which brings us to the storys biggest problem: why should a modern audience care about any of the three main characters? Gatsby is never more than a metaphorical cipher; Daisys a capricious flake whose personality doesnt seem likely to engender more than a one-night stand, never mind a five-year obsession; and though Nick is the most grounded and plenty likable his allegiance to the manipulative Gatsby over the likes of good-time Daisy and her equally fair-weather husband Tom make his affections seems as misguided as Gatsbys. If Daisy and her ilk sicken him so for being integrity-free and perfectly okay with using others for their own superficial needs and amusements, why does he admire Gatsby for his unflagging hope that he will be accepted by one of those very same people? Its one thing for characters to be unlikable but its quite another to ask the audience to sympathize with a one-dimensional character whose only raison detre is to win the heart of one of those characters. If nothing else, one has to admire Fitzgeralds skill with words that he seems to have, on some level, accomplished exactly that given the novels canonical regard. However, for me, the story, whatever the movies financial returns are, remains unfilmable.