The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells the haunting tale of a man, born at the close of World War I, who ages backwards while those around him age forward. Where others are born unformed and unwrinkled, Benjamin comes into the world a decrepit old man; where others wither, he dies in a pink and creaseless state of infancy. For Benjamin, love is inextricable from loss since his path runs counterclockwise to nature. This unsettling, melancholy notion is attached by the thinnest thread to its original literary source, a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. But in the hands of director, and with as Benjamin, this Button is a curious case: an extravagantly ambitious movie that is easy to admire but a challenge to love.
Eric Roth’s fanciful screenplay makes use of a weird structure to frame the film. A grown daughter () learns her mother’s romantic secrets as the old woman lays dying in a New Orleans hospital bed just as Hurricane Katrina is gathering force. The old woman, named Daisy, is after many hours with make-up artists; the secret is that Daisy met Benjamin in Louisiana a lifetime ago when the two were kids and he was old/young, and their love went on.
The movie has been in the works for years, pored over by Fincher like a favorite fairytale from his childhood. Just now has computer-driven wizardry matured enough to meet the story’s challenges so unobtrusively. Brad Pitt is a phenomenon of heightened celebrity. And that status, combined with great effects produces the exact force field of fame needed to take our breath away in that first moment on screen when Benjamin shines without grey hair.
The only lack of fundamentalism in Button is the complete disembarkation from the short story. The short story is more taciturn, maintaining a father and son relationship while the film, well —totally goes Hollywood. It is a common side effect of the cold that is a great story by Fitzgerald that when Hollywood gets their hands on anything allowed, they turn it into something that tries to challenge the senses. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is about the challenges of life and death, and how each are irrevocably irreversible in any way and how the sentimentalization of time is inebriated through experiences. While the film is a sad example of a book rendition to screen, it is one that shows nothing has to be exact. This version is just fine, and it does not have to be like the short story to be remarkably sad, in a good and great way.