the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

A&E Home Video presents

The Great Gatsby (2000)

"Gatsby? What Gatsby?"- Daisy Buchanan (Mira Sorvino)

Stars: Mira Sorvino, Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd, Martin Donovan
Other Stars: Francie Swift, Heather Goldenhersh, Matt Malloy, William Camp
Director: Robert Markowitz

Manufacturer: Crush Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:34m:05s
Release Date: 2001-01-30
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B+B+ B-


DVD Review

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is now considered one of the great books of the 20th century, it was a poor seller and critically panned when it appeared in the 1920s. Today, it remains a perennial bestseller and still holds interest, enough so that A&E felt that a new TV movie version of the book was called for. This inevitably brings up comparisons with the 1970s version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, and the new version acquits itself admirably.

This Gatsby is quite faithful to the book, retaining the narration by Nick Carroway (Paul Rudd) of the lives and loves of the wealthy in the Long Island communities of West Egg and East Egg. Nick's cousin, Daisy (Mira Sorvino), is married to old-money Tom Buchanan (Martin Donovan). Tom has a mistress on the side, and doesn't have much to do with Daisy. Nick's neighbor, Jay Gatsby (Toby Stephens), throws massive all-night parties at his mansion, but Nick soon learns that Gatsby was Daisy's love years before, and that he is still in love with her. When Gatsby rekindles the old flame between them, there is sure to be trouble. Tom Buchanan may not pay much attention to his wife, but he's competitive enough not to want Gatsby to have her.

This version doesn't revel as much in the opulence, decadence and drunkenness (despite Prohibition) as did the Redford version. That might be because there was a lower budget involved here, but it helps keep this TV movie from bogging down as was too often the case in the frankly boring earlier film. There is still plenty of production value to be seen here in the settings and the costumes, which are striking throughout.

Sorvino does a terrific job as Daisy, believably swaying between her love for the dissolute and disreputable Gatsby and her past feeling for her husband. Rudd doesn't get to show much range here, being mostly embarrassed throughout, whether by Gatsby's affair with his cousin or by Tom's affairs with a young garagekeeper's wife (Heather Goldenhersh). Martin Donovan brings great authority to the part of Tom, and nicely balances the smarmy lovestricken adulterer with the jealous husband. While Toby Stephens might be thought to mainly bring good looks and beefcake to Jay Gatsby, he also is reasonably accomplished in bringing Gatsby's nouveau riche gaucheness to the surface as well as conveying true emotion to his feelings for Daisy. His constant and clearly insincere use of the phrase "old sport" will have most viewers asking along with Tom Buchanan, "What is this 'old sport' business? Where did you get that?" The one seriously off note in the cast is from the child actress who plays the Buchanans' daughter Pammy; she is easily more wooden and ineffective than any random child picked off the street would have been.

Although based on a book, the approach here is thoroughly cinematic. With flashbacks and ironic dissolves, the story is quickly brought along on a nonverbal basis at times. The shot of the doomed Gatsby's hand, as he drops his precious cufflinks to the bottom of his pool, is as eloquent as nearly any other filmic death scene. Carl Davis' score is highly effective, blending Gershwinesque themes with tango rhythms and ominous trumpets and making this TV movie version a complete package.

In all, a quite creditable adaptation which manages to hold the viewer's interest throughout.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture is generally quite good indeed. Black levels are excellent and colors are vivid and natural appearing. There are some unfortunate compression artifacts, most notably visible in long shots which tend to pixelize, but these are only brief moments in a few spots in the film. Overall, the image is quite satisfactory for a television movie.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround audio is quite good. Dialogue tends to be center-oriented, but during the party sequences the surround channels are but to good use. There is no audible hiss or noise at any time. Carl Davis' score comes through clearly and without distortion. Depth and presence of sound is appropriate throughout; although there is little bass, not much bass is called for in this movie.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. A&E Biography episode on F. Scott Fitzgerald
Extras Review: Complete filmographies are provided for Mira Sorvino, Toby Stephens and Paul Rudd, along with one-paragraph bios for each of these young actors. The serious extra here is the full F. Scott Fitzgerald episode from the acclaimed Biography series. This documentary includes interviews with biographers and historians, as well as the children of those who knew Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Budd Stephens, who was, briefly, a collaborator of Scott's, is also interviewed. Interspersed are period film clips, photographs, and snippets from the 1970s version of The Great Gatsby, presented in pan & scan versions. While the film presentation is less than optimal, the biographical material is undeniably interesting.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

A very palatable adaptation of Fitzgerald's classic novel, without the bloat and self- importance that prior versions have suffered. Good performances and sumptuous settings and costumes certainly help. The extra of Fitzgerald's Biography episode makes this disc an excellent value.

Mark Zimmer 2001-02-26