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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008) January 15, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood, Literature.


Directed by David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond

The trick in film adaptation is not really coming from the material; faithfulness is the trick to beat, for at times being faithful is actually an act of betrayal. In Fincher’s case, it is rather difficult to even call it an adaptation because he has only borrowed Fitzgerald’s premise, nothing else. The period, the feel, the tone, the humor, the dialogues, the excesses, the addition and loss of some characters, the storytelling, the overwhelming effect of witnessing a life – – everything is rewritten to aggrandize an extremely rare case, to let its towering inspiration be shared by everyone, to set an example of a huge anomaly that can also be considered a blessing, to bring out emotions from characters whose situations are far from what we have, to allow us to see life from a different point of view, to appreciate our differences, to reconsider our selves. I dislike the hidden politics of Forrest Gump, so I guess it is quite reasonable to say that the things I don’t like in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button come from Roth. There are some minor glitches, scenes that turn your awe into confusion after kowtowing a few minutes ago. I am happy that Fincher’s influence is more dominant than Roth’s sentimental indulgence, and despite its almost three-hour length the interest never fades; in introducing us to Benjamin, the film has promised to tell us his life from start to finish, his incredible life, larger than everyone’s. We take the predictability for granted because Claudio Miranda is feeding our eyes with breathtaking visuals and Alexandre Desplat’s music, though underused, is giving us the shivers. Brad Pitt has given the best that can be expected from his entire career – – almost flawless – – and even Cate Blanchett acknowledges it. There are moments that I feel myself melting in my seat, like when young Daisy invites old Benjamin under the table and they share a candle, secrets, gazes, an innocence so pure and affecting I wish that fierce woman who reprimands them die at that moment, or when old Daisy visits young Benjamin at his home, alone, losing his memories to dementia, and Daisy carries him, accompanies him outside, they walk, holding hands, looking at each other, and when it is Benjamin’s time to go, he closes his eyes and Daisy looks at him until his last breath, until his very last look of life. Likewise, the telling of Daisy’s accident is purely magical. It is a sad life – – Benjamin’s – – but it is also filled with a unique sorrow and grace that moves you from the deepest pit of your self-serving sadness to the banality of simple existence. The humor and simplicity of Fitzgerald’s short story have also moved me to tears, though in a different way, and are less maudlin in filmic terms. What Fincher did is blow everything up – – so big I feel the film is moving towards me, like the stars and satellites in planetarium.



1. coffee - January 17, 2009

i was pleasantly surprised to find out that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the short story upon which Benjamin Button (the movie) was based, then mention this in the opening credits

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