The Great Gatsby (1974)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Great Gatsby (1974) Movie Poster Image
'70s adaptation is visually stunning, emotionally distant.
  • PG
  • 1974
  • 144 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

You can't repeat the past. This version of the story downplays Gatsby as a hopeful figure and emphasizes his quiet desperation in attempting to recapture and relive his past love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nick is a keen observer of people and we see them through his eyes. He's loyal and trustworthy and always does the right thing. Others present unappealing characteristics ranging from dissolute to frivolous and from brutish to blindly passive.

Violence

A man hits a woman in the face and blood is shown running from her nose. There are two or three scuffles, and in one a couple of punches are thrown. A woman cuts her hand on glass, her fingers are shown covered in blood, and she puts her bloody fingers in her mouth. A dead body is shown several times, including a close-up of the face, with the rest of the body covered. Spatters and smears of blood are shown on a car involved in a hit-and-run incident. A man in a swimming pool is shot several times, and we see him getting hit; blood is shown coming from his wounds, and a lot of blood is seen in the water. A man puts a gun to his mouth and a shot is heard.

Sex

Characters kiss several times, usually briefly, but one or two are lingering and passionate. Several characters are in adulterous relationships.

Language

"Damn" is used a few times. "Bastard" is used once, and "bitch" is used to refer to a female dog. Kids graffiti a bench with the word "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Despite the Prohibition-era setting, characters are frequently seen drinking alcoholic beverages at large parties, smaller gatherings, and alone. Many of the main characters are shown smoking several times, and people in the background are frequently seen smoking cigars and cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel is quieter and less splashy than the more recent offering  starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and it's also more emotionally distant. There are a few instances of violence that show blood, including a lot of blood spreading in water; a character is briefly shown starting to suck on very bloody fingers; and a man hits a woman, giving her a bloody nose. Sexual content involves mostly unspoken dynamics in adulterous relationships, but characters kiss in several scenes, sometimes passionately but without tongue. Profanity is infrequent and mild, with a few "damns" here and there, but young kids graffiti the word "s--t" onto a bench.

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What's the story?

Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) lives in a cottage next door to the splendid estate of the wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford). As Nick gets to know his neighbor, he's drawn into Gatsby's glittering but shallow world, and through his eyes we watch as Gatsby brings all his resources to bear on making his dream come true, which is to reunite with his lost love Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow). But Daisy's married now, and her loutish husband Tom (Bruce Dern) isn't going to just let go of her.

Is it any good?

This gorgeous production is easy on the eyes, with a dashing, handsome, golden Robert Redford and an equally golden and doe-eyed Mia Farrow. The acting is fantastic. But it takes an arm's-length approach, possibly to emphasize that we're seeing things through Nick's eyes, and, without the benefit of Fitzgerald's gorgeous prose, there's little here for the audience to connect with emotionally. So much is understated that in the end you feel like, well, nothing much was said. Kids who are looking for a way to connect to their freshman-year reading assignment will probably find the 2013 version more engaging.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about trying to relive past, better times. Do you agree with Nick that you can't repeat the past, or with Gatsby, who says you can? Why?

  • Have you read the novel or seen other filmed versions of The Great Gatsby? Which version do you like the best? Why?

  • If you've read the novel, do you think this movie version is true to it? What things got left out or changed?

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