Thursday, February 26, 2009

the curious case of the not-so-adapted screenplay

*spoiler alert!

"you can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. you could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go."
- captain mike from "the curious case of benjamin button"

i am so glad that eric roth and robin swicord did not win the oscar for best adapted screenplay.

it's not that they didn't do a great job with benjamin button. in fact, it was a very well-written movie. i enjoyed it tremendously. i loved the recurring "goodnight, daisy" and "goodnight, benjamin" theme. some bits of the dialogue was sublime poetry. there were beautiful, poignant moments in the film and there were parts where i would have cried if it weren't for the inappropriate laughter from the audience i shared the theatre with.

but it wasn't an adapted screenplay. it was a frankenstein of f. scott fitzgerald's short story and andrew greer's "the confessions of max tivoli".

anyone who has noticed the similarities between those works of fiction - a man born old, aging backwards - would have probably searched out articles about the two. yes, there is a significant difference in the way benjamin and max aged. benjamin was born an old man in every way - mentally and physically - and he died a baby with his mind solely on the next meal. max, however, bought beer for his underaged buddies and experimented the same way any teenager would while looking like an experienced man in his 50s.

the differences don't stop there. fitzgerald wrote the story of benjamin button in a plain, no-nonsense manner. he explained the complexities of raising a child that wasn't a child. he talked about how benjamin's father (that's the original story, his father didn't abandon him eventhough he loathed him) came to enjoy the company of his pre-teen son when they reached the same age. benjamin fell in love with an acquaintance's daughter and eventually grew tired of her as she aged. in the end, he became a nuisance to his own son as he tried to enforce his immature brand of fatherhood as an adolescent. plus he had a completely different personality from the benjamin played by brad pitt.

greer's depiction of max tivoli was pretty much the approach adopted by fincher, roth and swicord. it was a romantic tale of a man who waited to be with the love of his life when they met half way. it's been a couple of years since i've read "the confessions of max tivoli", but it was clear that it was this story - not the other one - they wanted to deliver onto the silver screen once i watched the film. there was little doubt that the romance, beauty and pain was borrowed from max tivoli. it had that tinge of lolita as well as the anguish of tragedy which was absent in fitzgerald's benjamin button.

that's why i'm glad the two writers didn't win the oscar. it would have been atrocious to award it to people who wrote something that had absolutely nothing in common with the original short story save for the concept of a man who aged backwards. giving them the oscar would be redefining the word "adapted". yeah, get the main idea and do whatever you like with it.

having said all that, it was a delightful movie. the almost-3-hours flew by. i was rather annoyed by the fact that the storm theme was overused and the part about the clock running backwards, however charming, was pretty redundant...but otherwise it was a beautifully done film and i enjoyed it immensely.

i just think greer should get some money out of it. i hope he did.

lishun at 11:40 AM