The focus of the plot is still the interrupted love story between Jay Gatsby and his object of desire, Daisy. Narrating the events is Nick Carraway, Gatsby's modest Long Island neighbor who becomes his most trusted confidante. Nick is responsible for reuniting the lovers who both have come to different points in their lives five years after their aborted romance. Now a solitary figure in his luxurious mansion, Gatsby is a newly wealthy man who accumulated his fortunes through dubious means. Daisy, on the other hand, has always led a life of privilege and could not let love stand in the way of her comfortable existence. Gatsby rekindles his romance with Daisy as Tom carries on carelessly with Myrtle Wilson, an auto mechanic's grasping wife. Nick himself gets caught up in the jet set trappings and has a relationship with Jordan Baker, a young golf pro. The characters head for a collision, figuratively and literally, that exposes the hypocrisy of the rich, the falsity of a love undeserving and the transience of individuals on this earth.
Casting is crucial, and surprisingly, most of the actors fulfill the characters well. Robert Redford, at the height of his box office appeal, plays Gatsby with the right enigmatic quality. As Daisy, Mia Farrow captures the romanticism and shallowness of a character that ultimately does not deserve the love she receives. Even if she appears overly breathy and pretentious, her frequently trying performance still fits Fitzgerald's image of the character. Bruce Dern makes an appropriately despicable Tom Buchanan, while Karen Black has scant screen time as the trashy Myrtle. A very young Sam Waterson makes the ideal Nick with his genuine manner and touching naiveté, and Lois Chiles is all throaty posturing as Jordan. As expected, all the exterior touches are luxuriant and feel period-authentic - Theoni V. Aldredge's costumes, John Box's production design, Douglas Slocombe's elegant cinematography, and Nelson Riddles's pervasive use of 1920's hits, in particular, Irving Berlin's wistful "What'll I Do?" (published in the same year as the book) as the recurring love theme. The film is worth a look if you have not seen it and a second one if you haven't seen it in a while. It's actually better if you've already read the book.
The Great Gatsby is a fantastic portrayal of an era—the 1920s—but fails to do justice to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel justice. Perhaps this is why, being a fan of the source material, that Coppola disowned his screenplay.