The film adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel was obviously a very expensive and ambitious production. It was impressive because it was like seeing the novel brought to life. Most of the actors were well suited to their roles. Robert Redford was strong and handsome, and he always looked great in his 1920s outfits. The young Sam Waterston seemed just right as Nick Carraway. Bruce Dern was excellent as Tom Buchanan. Karen Black was just right as Myrtle Wilson. The only actor who seemed to be a little off was the one who played Wilson the gas station owner. He seemed to be overacting in slow motion, but the role may have been difficult because he was alone and had no dialogue. His murdering Gatsby in the novel was a little too melodramatic anyway.
The best things about the film were the period costuming and the settings. Everything seemed authentic. Nick's little house across the lawn from Gatsby's mansion looked like a perfect realization of the setting in the book. It almost seemed as if there were the actual places where Nick met Gatsby and Gatsby met Daisy. The only thing missing was Fitzgerald's poetic prose and precocious worldly wisdom. These things are impossible to translate into a genre that is mostly confined to action and dialogue. Hemingway translates to movies easily because his writing depends so much on action and dialogue; Fitzgerald does not translate easily because his best writiing is contained in his descriptions, observations and his perishable, latter-day romanticism.