|Nice visual effects, shame about the script|
There are over a hundred cinemas in and around Munich but only half a dozen show original English versions. One is a musty, but in a nice sort of way, oldy-worldly place with a retro feel. An audience of just seven, we sat in the backrow quietly munching popcorn. Very very quietly actually. There must be some rule about popcorn-munching in German cinemas.
The closing credits roll and we're all still hooked to the edge of our seats. I ask the students if the film makes them want to pick up the book. A row of heads shake in unison. No, they say, not when you know what's going to happen. Fair comment. I guess it’s a bit like having the barber chop off all your hair and then finding a better style on offer.
Still, bookshop displays are bulging with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 masterpiece and there are good reasons why you might want to pick up a copy if you know only the film.
The film’s visual effects (must look great in 3D - we foolishly forgot glasses) are a finger food feast for the eyes but the screenplay is gangster-style lousy. The book, by contrast, offers some of the loveliest language you'll ever find in English: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." No wonder they airlifted that sentence word for word into the film's final diary-style flashback.
The film script has the occasional funny moment. Daisy made me laugh (“I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts!”), but most humour comes more from the sheer über-extravagence of Roaring 20s lifestyle. Its hedonistic parties make today's drug-driven raves look more like afternoon tea at the vicarage.
142 minutes of Leonardo DiCaprio leave me longing for something more. If you feel that way too maybe it's time to read the book.