The Great Gatsby Parent Guide
For families with older teens, the film's stylish visuals and engaging presentation might encourage deeper critical thinking despite the content issues.
Parent Movie Review
The 1920s are roaring and Nick Carraway’s (Tobey Maguire) aspirations to become a famous writer are fading as he is lured into the much more lucrative business of stock brokering. But his job is secondary to the location of the small home he has recently rented on the Long Island shore because next door is the towering estate of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Despite the many garish parties he throws, Gatsby is an elusive host. The house fills with invited and uninvited guests across all social classes, yet no one really knows what the moneyed legend looks like or, even more mysterious, the roots of his fortune. When Nick receives a rare personal request to attend one of the events, he is flattered with Gatsby’s effort to get to know him. After realizing they both served in the same division during the war the two become fast friends. Soon Nick is pulled into Gatsby’s world and discovers the motivating factor for not only the proffered friendship but the man’s entire existence: Gatsby wants Nick’s help to rekindle his former romance with Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan).
Prior to Gatsby’s appeal, Nick had begun on his own initiative to be reacquainted with Daisy who, not coincidently, lives in a mansion directly across the bay with her rich lout of a husband Tom (Joel Edgerton). It’s immediately obvious the marriage is strained. This is later confirmed when Tom invites Nick to a private rendezvous at a Manhattan flat with some other women—including Myrtle (Isla Fisher), his mistress. With the knowledge of the man’s infidelity, Nick’s concerns about introducing his married cousin to Gatsby soften. Yet the rather wide-eyed, innocent broker has no idea what his interference is about to reveal.
Director Baz Lurhrmann literally illuminates the period in which F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is set. Automobiles, telephones and electricity work to both facilitate and interrupt the twenty-four hour a day high-society life of 1920s New York City. Illegal alcohol, all night parties, sexual escapades and drugs (referred to as “nerve medicine”) appear to keep the populous distracted while a bribed police commissioner looks the other way. The mayhem results in numerous depictions of revelry and sensuality, although profanities are infrequent and mild.
For families with older teens, many who may be reading The Great Gatsby in school, the film’s stylish visuals and engaging presentation might encourage deeper critical thinking despite the content issues. There is an obvious bias favoring those who are not from the wealthy establishment, yet in this interpretation one also senses an insatiable excitement for the modern urban world and its many (often sordid) opportunities. It also provides an interesting look at the female characters of this era and their dependence on men to determine their destinies.
Anyone familiar with the novel knows this is a great American tragedy, one that illustrates how lust and greed can destroy lives. But unless you are willing to dig below the surface, you may mistake this near-century old tale as being yet another film about rich people having big parties.Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire. Running time: 143 minutes. Theatrical release May 10, 2013. Updated July 17, 2017
The Great Gatsby
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Great Gatsby rated PG-13? The Great Gatsby is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.
Violence: A character is shot in the back (some blood is shown). A character puts a gun in his mouth and commits suicide—the actual shot is not seen. A man slaps a woman causing injury. Characters frequently engage in verbal debate, sometimes to the point of verbal abuse. Two men begin fighting, but one backs off. A character is killed after being hit by a car (the body is later seen covered in blood).
Sexual Content: Adulterous sexual relationships are implied and depicted in various scenes, but without explicit detail. Sounds of sexual activity are clearly heard in one scene. Other scenes depict brief sexual activity with bare backs and shoulders. Women are seen at drunken parties in period underwear and scanty costumes, implying sexual activity was part of the event.
Language: Two mild profanities as well as racial slurs and remarks are heard.
Drugs/Alcohol: Many characters engage in frequent drinking. One main character admits to being an alcoholic and says that many people drink too much. Drunken people engage in altercations, sexual activity and driving automobiles. Frequent smoking of cigarettes and cigars is seen. One character offers a drug to another that is described as “nerve medicine.” Gambling is depicted.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
The Great Gatsby Parents' Guide
What are the attitudes toward various social, sexual and ethnic groups in this film? Specifically what are the attitudes toward the rich versus the poor? Blacks versus whites? And women versus men?
Do you think Daisy was foolish for making the choices she did? Or is she a product of the time period in which she lives?
Considering the short time Gatsby had to become enraptured with Daisy, do you think his motivations for engineering his entire life around the hope of being reunited with her are justified?
Gatsby is seen as the tragic hero or protagonist, yet as we learn of his background, is he ethically any better than Tom? What would some of the unseen consequences be for Gatsby’s choices? Why did the author choose to not display these while explicitly showing Tom’s behavior? Can you think of heroes in other movies who have similar unseen pasts?
The most recent home video release of The Great Gatsby movie is August 27, 2013. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: 27 August 2013
The Great Gatsby releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy or Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy) with the following extras:
- The Greatness of Gatsby
- “Within and Without” with Tobey Maguire
- The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby
- The Jazz Age
- Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the ‘20s
- Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry
- Gatsby Revealed
- Deleted Scenes
Related home video titles:
Leonardo DiCaprio plays another wealthy eccentric in The Aviator. Director Baz Luhrmann tries to capture the spirit of a country, rather than an era, in the film Australia. Tobey Maguire takes on a persona of a superhero who also hangs out in New York City in Spider-Man. The fixed 1919 World Series is mentioned in this film and is the basis for the movie Field of Dreams.