I was intrigued when I first heard about the concept of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button where the main character, Benjamin Button, starts off being old and gradually ages younger and younger. It was a fantasy story that didn’t have trolls, swords or magic; but one that could be set in our daily lives.
The concept came from a short story by the American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before the movie came out, I had already heard about the concept and looked for the short story online so that I could read it. That sated my desire for awhile, but I was interested in how Hollywood would dramatize it.
I finally watched the movie recently, split over two viewings (it’s almost 3 hours long) and I think the movie improved on the story in many ways but also got a bit lost in the process. The story is told from a hospital bed where a woman is reading a diary to her estranged and near-death mother. Benjamin’s life is told through a series of vignettes from his early, old age where he is an impressionable young boy, until he ages older mentally but younger physically. We’re taken on a journey where he learns about relationships, especially one which lasts his entire life.
There are a lot of recurring themes and self-referencing in the movie as it tries to spell out for the viewer how Benjamin’s past lessons affected future decisions. I think it was this method of story telling which alienated me from the film. I felt like I was being shown a selection of cherry picked scenes from Benjamin’s life to illustrate various clichés and lessons. I have no problem, and enjoyed the “moral of the story” in the movie, but having a variety of lessons pointed out throughout the film was overdoing it.
Looking back, I don’t think that completely explains why I had mixed films about tCCoBB. I think what detracts from the film is the constant reminder of death. The first half is filled with death, and joking that everyone dies in the end is almost not a joke! Any message that the movie tries to convey about love and happiness of life can’t overcome the feeling of death everywhere (or maybe that is the message, that there can be happiness even with death – but that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth).
The short story was too short but the film adaptation is a bit too much of a winding journey for my tastes. I would rate the Curious Case of Benjamin Button as 3 stars out of 5 although it is enjoyable in a gets-you-thinking sort of way.