THE Great American novels have had a torrid time making it to the screen.
The Catcher In The Rye is said to be unfilmable. So much so that JD Salinger refused to let Hollywood anywhere near his masterpiece.
The 1959 version of The Sound and The Fury was an incoherent mess, Confederacy of Dunces is considered cursed, having fallen apart numerous times and On The Road came out last year to absolutely no fanfare.
And rightly so, it was absolutely turgid.
One writer whose ouevre has been particularly poorly represented on film has been F Scott Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald burned brightly over the jazz era and his novels and short stories contain more than enough hedonism, intrigue and interesting characters to fill a Hollywood studio.
Somehow, however, adaptations of his work continue to fall short.
The tone has never been found to match the sumptuous setting, with Francis Ford Coppolla’s 1974 Gatsby a visual treat but a critical wash.
The Last Tycoon, Elia Kazan’s last swing of the bat felt just like that; a prized hitter swinging for the fences and grounding out.
Tender is the Night was filmed in the 60s and is one of the worst filmic adaptations ever.
Hope seemed to be on the horizon with The Great Gatsby, the latest attempt to do justice to Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.
It has Baz Luhrman in the directors chair, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Jay-Z on the soundtrack.
Now, I am a huge fan of Jigga. I don’t know anyone fresher than Hov.
But his inclusion on the soundtrack signals absolutely what is wrong with Luhrman’s take on the source material; it is all style, no substance.
Only DiCaprio seems to understand that the source material is more than garish colours, fountains of champagne and dapper suits.
His take on Jay Gatsby would, in another world, be the definitive take on the character, but instead will be relegated to a footnote in a poor film.
As with his previous output, Luhrman’s eye for colour and sweeping shots is on show and some of his flourishes, particularly on Gatsby’s entrance, are breathtaking.
But, in true Luhrman style, the characters are mostly expressionless dolts or caricatures of real people.
Tobey Maguire’s green Nick Carraway is infused with as much gravitas and charisma as an old bowl of weetabix and Carey Mulligan is scarcely believable as Daisy Buchanan.
The central premise of the story is that a great man, a giant of his age, would be driven to the brink by his love of one woman.
That premise falls flat on its face because Mulligan is given little else to do than be a victim and a catalyst. She is as useful as any Macguffin and as animated.
Swathed in a cloak of CG and anachronistic music, the film glides along looking beautiful and sounding vaguely interesting.
It’s just a shame that, despite DiCaprio’s best efforts, it does little else.