Great Gatsby [1974]

This adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, scripted by Francis Ford Coppola, puts costume design and art direction above the intricacies of character. It's certainly a handsome try, and perhaps no movie could capture The Great Gatsby in its entirety. Robert Redford is an interesting casting choice as Gatsby, the millionaire isolated in his mansion, still dreaming of the woman he lost. And Sam Waterston is perfect as the narrator, Nick, who brings the dream girl Daisy Buchanan back to Gatsby. No, the problem seems to be that director Jack Clayton fell in love with the flapper dresses and the party scenes and the Jazz Age tunes, ending up with a Classics Illustrated version of a great book rather than a fresh, organic take on the text. While Redford grows more quietly intriguing in the film, Mia Farrow's pallid performance as Daisy leaves you wondering why Gatsby, or anyone else, should care so much about his grand passion. The effective supporting cast includes Bruce Dern as Daisy's husband, and Scott Wilson and Karen Black as the low-rent couple whose destinies cross the sun-drenched protagonists. (That's future star Patsy Kensit as Daisy's little daughter.) The film won two Oscars--not surprisingly, for costumes and musical score. --Robert Horton

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