Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button - Movie Versus Story

I saw The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button for the first time last night. I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories, ones looking back over lives already lived. Throw in some poignant love stuff and I'm in there. I was pretty blown away by how well this movie was done. It took its time to tell this strange story and let the consequences of the situation manifest at an unrushed pace, drawing the viewer into this strange life. Brad Pitt was - as he so often is - brilliant. It was possibly one of his best performances. Good to see him using the restraint this roll called for. Cate Blanchet and Tilda Swinton were equally superb.

Not knowing where the story came from, I Googled during an ad break and was surprised that it was based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story from the 1920s. Another yawning gap in my knowledge. It just seemed like such a weird story for Fitzgerald to have written.

In further reading it turns out to have been inspired by a quote by Mark Twain, observing that it's such a waste that life is not lived backwards, that the best parts happen at the beginning of life and the worst at the end.

Reading on I found that the plot for the movie is very tenuously based on the book. Effectively the main character's name and the fact that as he grows in years he gets younger and younger are really the only things they have in common.

I really enjoyed the movie, in spite of it reminding me too often of Forest Gump. I had to read the story.

What a difference. The beginning feels overly dramatic and really not very well written. I find most of the story quite clunky. It feels forced and doesn't have the poetry of the movie, and I had expected the story to be saturated in that very unhurried poetry that made the movie so memorable and affecting. The story just feels like bad writing.

Until the end as Benjamin Button nears his strange demise, and here is simple language capturing the innocence of the way Button views the world in his final years, days, minutes. So sad and beautiful.

I'll read the story again, but I think this is one of those rare cases wher the movie version is better than the written version. The movie nailed it.

On a side note, I posted how much I enjoyed the movie on Facebook. A psytrance producer friend who is playing at a festival in Malta alongside Infected Mushroom said that he loved it too and that it had made him cry. I jokingly called him a softcock before admitting that, ahem, it had made me cry too.

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