Friday, July 19, 2013


Harlequin KISS/Mills & Boon Tempted author Heidi Rice waxes lyrical about Baz Luhrmann's mental new film of F Scott Fitzgerald's Great American Novel...

The thing about literary classics is they are VERY hard to make into classic movies partly because films and books are two whole different mediums; partly because fans of the book are bound to be upset about all the stuff you have to leave out and partly because when you read a book you have an image in your head, which is not necessary gonna jibe with the image the filmmaker has. See, it's a tough one. Which only becomes tougher the more revered a novel is.

Now Mr Luhrmann is not known for his restrained filmmaking - just check out Moulin Rouge! and Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman warbling show tunes at each other atop a bejewelled elephant and you'll see what I mean. And F Scott Fitzgerald's jazz-age tale of love and loss and obsession is perhaps one of the most subtlety seductive pieces of literature ever written, so putting the two of them together could so easily have been a match made in Hell. That Luhrmann then chose to over-egg his pudding even more by making the film on a lavish scale in eye-popping 3-D - could have made that match even worse. And for some people it undoubtedly did. I'm not gonna lie to you folks, some people are gonna hate this movie. It's mad, it's manic, it's at times so over-the-top it can make you giddy and it does skirt very close to the edge of completely swamping Fitzgerald's delicate story of doomed love, class conflict and tragic delusion.

But I have to admit, I LOVED it. Luhrmann doesn't treat Fitzgerald's story like a sacred cow, he reinvents it for a newer, younger, visually sophisticated audience - many of whom (such as my oldest son) are not necessarily familiar with the original. And for me that's what a great film should do. We get a geniune glimpse into the insanity of Gatsby's party lifestyle, the mad hedonistic rush into the abyss that later became the Great Depression. There's new music by Beyonce and Jay-Z to pull the audience back into the past. And there's a particularly glorious sequence featuring Lana Del Rey's haunting love ballad Young and Beautiful.

 But best of all there's Leo DiCaprio's wonderfully brash and yet tortured performance as Jay Gatsby, a man who has reinvented himself and built an empire simply to capture the attention of a woman - spoilt socialite Daisy Buchanan - who only ever really existed in his head. Carey Mulligan doesn't fare quite so well as Daisy, partly I think because in an attempt to make her more sympathetic the character just becomes a rather confusing combination of innocence and calculation. In the book Daisy is pretty vaccuous and self-absorbed - a careless person like all those of her class - in the film we're made to believe she really did love Gatsby, just not enough. But that does kind of leave her motivations hanging during the high melodrama of the final reel.

All in all though, I enjoyed this movie. It's a lavish feast for the eyes, while at the same time being the ultimately tragic tale of a man who has been destroyed by his own delusions. And yes, it's totally Over The Top!! but it is also impossible to ignore. And unlike the recent superman movie, I would highly reccommend seeing this in all its 3-D glory. Seriously, it's like being at a Jazz Age party, and what could be more Presents than that!

Heidi currently has books out in Modern - One Night, So Pregnant - in the UK and Harlequin KISS - Too Close for Comfort - in the US. Her next release is Maid of Dishonor, Book 3 in the fabulous Harlequin KISS quartet The Wedding Season. You can contact her on her blog, website, Facebook or Twitter (@HeidiRomRice).


  1. I still haven't seen this, and I'm desperate to! Must go!

  2. It's a marmite movie, Fiona....You'll either love it or hate it, but I would recommend going the Full 3-D on it...