Gatsby fans, rejoice! After four film adaptations (of wildly varying quality) of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved novel comes Gatsby in Connecticut: The Untold Story, a quaint little documentary that arguably manages to stay faithful to the author’s spirit. Driven by the same sense of wonder, erudition, eloquence, and brevity that were the guiding forces behind Fitzgerald’s work, Robert Steven Williams impassioned and succinct ode to the author has charm to spare.
In 1920, Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda spent the summer in Westport, Connecticut, where they had a wealthy neighbor with a penchant for extravagant parties. Although the popular belief remains that the author drew inspiration from Great Neck, Long Island – after all, the novel is set in the suburbs of West and East Egg, L.I. – Williams demonstrates that perhaps Westport’s influence on the story was too swiftly dismissed by the scholarly community.
“Driven by the same sense of wonder, erudition, eloquence, and brevity that were the guiding forces behind Fitzgerald’s work…”
Williams avoids the pratfalls of a dry biographical doc, though literary scholars, in particular, will lap this up. The filmmaker traces Fitzgerald’s stratospheric rise to fame, recites letters between the young prodigy and his wife-to-be, Zelda – “the first pop stars” – all the while providing insightful commentary courtesy of Keir Dullea’s narration (“The whole marriage was contingent on the book.”)
The filmmaker, who has worked on this documentary for years, lovingly pieces together archival footage and photographs, seamlessly matching them to soundbites from the era, as well as several distinguished fans’ commentaries. Sam Waterston, who played Nick Carraway in the 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, makes an appearance and is in palpable awe as he explores Fitzgerald’s house. The little asides prove equally entertaining, such as Williams running down the list of books, T.V. shows, and films that were inspired by or directly set in Westport.
Gatsby in Connecticut: The Untold Story is not going to blow minds, but at less than 70 minutes, it’s a compact and frequently delightful piece of historical/ literary/ cinematic speculation. It does breathlessly race through some bits, while needlessly lingering on other, less compelling ones. It also bounces a little abruptly from segment to segment, not giving some of its talking heads enough time to finish their thoughts. Yet none of these blemishes will prevent Gatsby fans from being “simultaneously charmed and repelled by the inexhaustible variety.”
"…lovingly pieces together archival footage and photographs, seamlessly matching them to soundbites from the era..."