Film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I will never forget her blue eyes...
A short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
that was later adapted into a successful 2008 movie directed by David Fincher
and starring Brad Pitt
As Hurricane Katrina prepares to hit the city of New Orleans, former ballerina Daisy Ford is on her deathbed. She asks her daughter to read to her the diary of a man she once knew. This man, Benjamin, then takes over the narration of his story.In 1918, a baby named Benjamin Button was born, and his was a very curious case.
He is born an old, shrunken man and ages backward, becoming younger and younger over the years. Throughout his life, he experiences the changing times and meets many different people who help to shape his world.
The movie follows him along all the drama, romance, tears, and laughs that a man who ages backward could possibly have. Well, apart from the bits where he's young enough to enjoy life.
This film provides examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The original short story was a choppy 11-chapter farce (a meager 27 pages long). The film version turned that into a 3-hour dramatic epic. The story in turn was based on a brief remark by Mark Twain.
- Age-Appropriate Angst: Explored, as Benjamin's outlook on life is always sharply contrasted to what "age" he looks at the moment.
- Arc Words: "You never know what's coming for you," a phrase uttered by various characters that highlights one of the film's many themes, this one dealing with the surprises, the unexpected events in one's life that take someone in a different direction than planned. The phrase really describes Benjamin's entire life.
- Born as an Adult: Ben came out of the womb as an old man.
- Brick Joke: Elizabeth. She talks about how she tried to swim the English Channel once but wasn't able to, and that she never tried again. She disappears from the hotel leaving only a vague note to apparently never be seen again. Then, much later on in the film, Benjamin sees her being interviewed on TV. What is she being interviewed for? Being the oldest person to swim the English Channel. (One of the film's main themes is how one can never be too old or too young to live your life.)
- Calling The Old Woman Out: Caroline when she discovers that Benjamin is her father attempts it with Daisy by saying "This Benjamin is my father and this is how you tell me?
- The Case Of: The title uses this template to suggest the bizarre and mysterious nature of the events.
- Death by Adaptation: Benjamin's mother survives in the short story, but not in the film.
- Death by Childbirth: Benjamin's mother dies this way in the beginning of the movie.
- Doorstop Baby: After Benjamin's mother died giving birth, his father would abandon him on the doorstop of some random house.
- Double Entendre: Caroline asks Daisy if she wants her to skip the part of the diary where Benjamin talks about Elizabeth. Daisy remarks she's glad he found someone to "keep him warm" - as in both keeping him warm in cold Moscow and keeping him warm before Daisy got to him.
- Everything Fades: Benjamin in the short story, who is strongly implied just to disappear from existence in lieu of dying. The film changes this to Ben in the body of an infant dying comfortably in his former wife's arms.
- The Film of the Book: Fitzgerald's story is a satire. The movie retains nothing of the story except for the title and the idea of a man aging backwards.
- Framing Device: The life of Benjamin is told by a old woman on her death bed to her daughter in the hours before Hurricane Katrina.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: They managed to get away with 2 F-words (while PG-13 movies normally only allow one).
- Heroes Want Redheads: Both Benjamin's love interests - Daisy and Elizabeth - are red haired.
- In Name Only: The Movie differs significantly from the original story.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Coupled with Fridge Brilliance. After all, if you were telling your life story you wouldn't have time to properly develop everyone significant in your life would you?
- Long-Lost Relative: Thomas Button, Benjamin's father.
- Made of Iron: The guy that was struck by lightening seven times lives to a ripe old age.
- Magic Realism: How did he get born with such a Curious Case? In the short story it was explicitly stated to be caused by the backwards clock starting to spin the exact second he was born. In the movie, the relevance of the clock was only hinted at. As Katrina makes its way into New Orleans, the clock starts moving backwards again...
- May-December Romance: Which progresses into a July-October, then an October-July, then December-May romance. But while Benjamin's body ages backwards, his mind still ages forwards, so he and Daisy, born around the same time, are always the same age "in spirit". Nevertheless, the only time that they really get intimate is the period in which they meet in the middle.
- Merlin Sickness: Benjamin Button, obviously, and milked for every ounce of romantic tension and general drama they can wring out of it. Ben breaks up with the love of his life because she can't raise their child and the child he will soon become.
- Miniature Senior Citizens: Benjamin Button is a tiny old person, because he's a baby.
- No Name Given: The old woman who taught Benjamin how to play piano. He can't remember her name.
- Pyrrhic Victory: The Chelsea crew defeat the German submarine by ramming it, but at the cost of the Chelsea and most of her crew.
- Politically Correct History: Played straight most of the time, but averted in Ngunda Oti's backstory. (He once was held in the cage of a zoo!)
- Public Domain Soundtrack: The ending of the movie uses the tune of Scott Joplin's Bethena.
- Ramming Always Works: During the brief time Benjamin's in WWII, the tugboat he's crew on rams and sinks an enemy U-Boat that had just sunk a troop transport. The captain and several crew do not survive, shot by the U-boat's deck gunner.
- Redshirt Army: During the WWII combat scene.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Everyone who finds out about Ben's condition decides it's best to keep it under their hat. This doesn't seem too hard to explain away for most of the movie (the only people who spend enough time around him to notice are his adoptive parents, his true love, and not-much-time-left retirees) but the doctor at the end when he's a child with dementia seems to work it out and tell no-one.
- Running Gag: "Did I ever tell you that I was struck by lightning seven times?" followed by sepia footage of the man being struck by lightning on the particular occasion he just described. We only get to see five, though.
- Sassy Black Woman: Queenie, though she is good-natured and motherly as well
- Setting Update: The short story starts slightly before the The American Civil War, and Benjamin fights during Spanish-American War. The film moves it forward a few decades, with Ben being born at the end of WWI and fighting in WWII instead.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Elizabeth is first only seen dressed in grey and from then on only in her nightwear. Then one night Benjamin comes downstairs to find her all dolled up.
- She Is All Grown Up: Played straight and inverted in the same scene. Benjamin sees Daisy as a young woman for the first time. She had previously seen him as a man in his 60s but he has now de-aged to his late 40s/early 50s. And the inversion comes again when 50-year-old Daisy comes face-to-face with a Benjamin in his 20s, and sees how He Is All Grown Down.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: David Fincher in the DVD commentary uses a Precision F-Strike it seems every chance he gets. In fact, he seems to swear more than the characters in the movie.