Scott--feeling that HOLLYWOOD GLOW!!!!
Since the story has long ago fallen into the public domain, lots of people are making money on it, money that Fitzgerald would have killed for during his final days of haunting the steps of the Bank of America in Culver City, waiting for royalty checks so he would not be thrown out of his apartment! Many new, fancy editions of this story--plus a few other popular faves!!!--are being released, even though the original story is completely free online!!!!
The original short story, although hacked out for cash, is at least tied to a recognizably tragic narrative: Button has no power as an old man, slowly gains power and strength as he de-ages, and then suddenly loses all that he's gained as he lapses into childhood and infancy. There are riffs on family dynamics with Button's son, the disintegration of relationships with his wife, the meaninglessness of status-seeking (Button, denied entry to Harvard at 50, finally gets admitted at 18 before flunking out in his senior year--but with hopes of getting admitted to the high-class prep school all of his classmates went to.) The results? Paraphrasing Fitzgerald to Hemingway: the old whore now got $5,000 a screw, thanks to Benjamin Button!
The movie, although a project of serious artistic merit, jettisons this structure in favor of a fun Forrest-Gump style pastiche of different American eras, a storyline in which most of the messy emotional mumbo jumbo is gotten out of the way by having Benjamin cruise around a magical America for most of his "twenties", a character named Daisy for no particular reason, and of course contemporary political relevance with a fun "Hurricane Katrina" theme. The result? Gross revenue of $150,000,000, thirteen Academy Award nominations, and plenty of "Best Picture of 2008" rankings on film critics' lists--a work of high cinematic merit! F. Scott Fitzgerald: a writer ahead of his time!
And I mean that in more ways than one! In yet another "Curious Case", F. Scott Fitzgerald has already reviewed this movie--from 68 years in the past! From 1940, while Fitzgerald was frantically drinking himself to death on a Hollywood backlot, hacking out movie scripts to pay his wife's sanitarium bills, the work not only degrading but just not available!!!!! Where he was found dead of an alcohol-related heart attack on the floor of his trailer at the age of 44!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes--you don't have to take my word that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button represents real movie magic of the level we've all come to expect from big-budget Hollywood adaptations of books. Take it straight "from the horse's mouth"--by which I mean from Fitzgerald's extended review of "The Case of Benjamin Button," originally published serially in Esquire as "The Pat Hobby Stories."
And as he glowered at Pat, [the studio head] wished that writers could be dispensed with altogether. If only ideas could be plucked from the inexpensive air!
But as this movie and its critical and commercial success prove--some wishes do come true!
The Case of Benjamin Button: four stars!!!!!!!
Posted by future on Fri, 30 Jan 2009 02:03:10 -0500 -- permanent link