The movies, we are sometimes reminded, are a collaborative art. The director’s vision may be sturdy, his aesthetic coherent, but the fingerprints of others are usually detectable on the final product. Case in point: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher’s new movie, is as much Fincher’s as it is his screenwriter’s. The handiwork of Eric Roth, best known for Forrest Gump, is evident in this prestige production, a decades-spanning epic whose singular premise and piercing loneliness are ultimately overwhelmed by a soggy script trafficking in counterfeit lyricism.
And yet there’s plenty to like—and at times, even, to love—in the movie. Though based on a short story of the same title by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film actually resembles the original only in its premise of a man who ages backward—and barely so at that. In Fitzgerald’s story, which opens in Baltimore in 1860, a child is born not only resembling a 70-year-old man (right down to a beard) but also talking like one. In the film, however, the infant, born in New Orleans on Armistice Day, 1918, acts and weighs like an infant, even if he has the face, skin, and bones of an arthritic old man. Over the course of the next 80 or so years, Benjamin Button ages backward physically, even as time’s arrow hurtles forward. By his dotage, he will look like an ordinary toddler.
Click here to read the rest of Elbert Ventura’s review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.