F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote one of the best books in 20th century American literature with The Great Gatsby. Naturally, various adaptations have been released over fifty-plus years. The most recent direct adaptation of the novel is in the 2013 film The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge! fame. When the film came out, everyone seemed to like the soundtrack well enough. I find the soundtrack to be good and suitable for the film. But there’s something else that almost everyone forgot: the terrific score composed by Craig Armstrong.
If you’ve read my post entitled ‘underused/underrated film composers’, you’ll see that Armstrong’s on the list and for good reason. As I’ve listened to more of his work I’ve always wondered why he doesn’t get any mainstream recognition for the music he composes. Nowhere is this more true than in this film. The film’s released soundtrack has nothing from his score, even the deluxe edition didn’t bother to include hardly anything worthwhile from the orchestra.
That’s a shame, a real shame indeed. Armstrong composed a magnificent score and from what little of it exists online today I think its worth a full public release. He seamlessly combines vocals from other songs into pieces without it feeling too out of place. Armstrong also wrote themes for various characters and locations in the movie, some of which made it into the film and some of which did not.
The closest score I can compare it to in overall style is Titanic. While it may not have the same powerful ballad as the late James Horner’s masterwork, Gatsby does have the swelling strings, slow pace and full-throated roar as well as the soft, quiet moments. Some parts sound near-angelic, especially during ‘dream violin’.
While I am aware the score was nominated for a Grammy, that’s not saying much because who remembers film scores nominated for Grammys? That’s not even what that awards show is about! Anyway, this score has been badly overlooked and it doesn’t deserve to be so. Neither does Armstrong himself. Sure it’s nothing decade-defining, but it does capture the spirit of the book and enhances the film very well. And that’s really all a film score needs to do.