“..leaving the page of the book carelessly open” – Anne Sexton

F.Scott vs. Hollywood

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on March 15, 2009

benjaminbuttonI finally watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and directly after read the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Too much was lost in the translation. The whole story in fact – and its spirit.

I suppose in this case it wasn’t meant to be a loyal adaptation but it’s hard to say why this film was even made at all if it wasn’t going to represent the story.

The bookended clock scenes, and the fact that the story gets told against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina are conceits designed to make the story contemporary enough to attract a younger and/or non-literary audience. However, these are the elements that try to  make what is meant to be a fantastical tale that is a comment on changing social morrays into an actual plausible story. It fails. Hurricane Katrina was all too real.  This story is an allegory, not an historical fiction. Therefore, the clock scene is not needed to explain/justify the aging backwards. I wonder at the decision making process here. Since they were shooting in New Orleans did they think they needed to make a statement, was it meant as a tribute? Just doesn’t make enough sense to me to warrant changing the story.

bbrussiaParts of the film are entertaining. It’s fun to watch Brad Pitt age, then become young, and younger still. You find yourself thinking more about the special effects employed than the actual character and story. The character of Queenie is pure joy to watch. I also like the addition of Button’s Russian affair (how to not see Robert Redford during these scenes, Pitt looks uncannily like him as an older fellow).


In F. Scott’s story, no-one, not Benjamin’s father, not his wife, nor his son believe that he cannot control his descent from old-at birth to youth-at-death. He’s not taken to a healer to cure his strangeness. No-one is in on the joke. And in my view that is what gives the story, as brief as it is, its tension. Though I understand the idea of a soul connection regardless of age or station in life, etc, there are times in the film that the relationship between Benjamin and Daisy seems a little unsavoury. Like when, as a child, Daisy takes the aged Benjamin underneath her bed to play, and when, at the end of the film, Daisy plays nurse maid/mother to the baby Benjamin. Again, these would not be questions at all, had the backdrop not been a young woman reading an apparently real story back to her dying mother while the most destructive Hurricane in recent memory rages.

In the little game that I play with myself about film vs. literature, literature wins again.

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