Paquita Maria Sanchez's Reviews > The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Feb 02, 2015

it was ok
bookshelves: literature

First of all, how is there an entire movie here? Yeah, yeah, it would probably be best to come back to that.

My overall vote is "meh?" From a clunky start, this short story waxes and wanes in a similar fashion to its title character. All that I could think while reading the first two sections was how Fitzgerald's dialogue and descriptions of character behavior were the literary equivalent of cutting paper dolls out of vellum and proclaiming them to be sentient creatures. Along with being generally flimsy prototypes for Dad, Mom, Doctor, Nurse, etc, each one of the figures in the story spoke as if they were awkward, bratty kids acting in a grade school stage play. Example from when Señor Button the First arrives at the hospital expecting to greet his newborn child (who is actually, as you surely know, a crotchety old man):

"What's the matter?" demanded Mr. Button appalled. "Triplets?"

"No, not triplets!" answered the doctor cuttingly. "What's more, you can go and see for yourself. And get another doctor. I brought you into the world, young man, and I've been physician to your family for forty years, but I'm through with you! I don't want to see you or any of your relatives ever again! Good-bye!"

Geesh, calm down, princess. And here I thought I was addicted to exclamation points like my keyboard pumps helium through my fingertips directly up to my brain. Fortunately, the "pre-teen equivalent to daytime soap opera" dialogue eases up as you move along with the story. The soapy behavior, however, continues:

In the upper hall he addressed another nurse who approached him, basin in hand. "I'm Mr. Button," he managed to articulate. "I want to see my..."

Clank! The basin clattered to the floor and rolled in the direction of the stairs. Clank! Clank!

This is just one example, but YES, I am definitely nitpicking. However, have you ever seen the film Wet Hot American Summer? It cleverly addresses this irritating habit of bad movies, bad television shows, and (in this case) bad, bad writing: the tendency to have people convey the complex and often disparate emotions of astonishment, anger, and terror simply by dropping whatever they are holding (with overly high-pitched, generic sound effects included). In W.H.A.S., every time a character throws something in frustration or shock, the same stock track of breaking glass is played regardless of what material the projectile is composed of. This happens something to the tune of a 10-ish times in the movie, and it is increasingly hilarious. In Benjamin Button, however, it is just another example of some of the slovenly writing contained therein.

As you move on, the story becomes more engaging. I don't know if it is necessarily better written in parts, or if the plot itself simply distracted me from otherwise weak wordplay. All the same, as the character hits his physical thirties and begins losing his passion and feelings of connection to his lethargic, 50's-ish wife, you feel for him a bit. As he regresses further and further back toward the womb, losing the respect of his community and even his ungrateful dickwad of a son, you feel for him a bit more. And so on and and so on. In fact, the sections dealing with Benjamin's adult child's frustration with his increasingly infantile father were pretty emotionally charged. It seemed a fitting metaphor for the way that many adults tend to eventually see their aging parents as burdens rather than role models and givers of life. It invokes the reader's sympathies for those poor, loony old folks dumped into nursing homes and abandoned by their kin to rot in the diapers that life tends to cycle us back into. Sad, sad stuff.

All in all, Benjamin Button is an interesting story with somewhat poor execution. It is pretty watery, and considering that it is so short, I'd argue that sloppy writing is kind of inexcusable. Also, there is a point near the end where my interest dropped off pretty sharply, as I felt fairly certain that I knew exactly what was coming. By the end, the story had once again become about as fascinating as some stranger's drooling baby.

So, again: how is there a movie here? Oh, and why have I never seen it? There are so many things about it for which I have positive associations: Cate Blanchett, David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Fitzgerald. For some reason, though, I just never got around to it, and am even less interested now. Would you care to change my mind?
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Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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Megha "First of all, how is there an entire movie here?"

It is a slooooowwww movie. The movie is probably better than the short story version though.

Kelly It is pretty sad when memory of the film version squashes what little memory there was of the print version. There was some definite nail-hitting here K, completely agree. It is inexcusable. Especially from an author that we have already cooed over due to his 'unflappable' Gatsby. The only way Fitzgerald survived a harpy attack from me was the smart idea of approaching the end of the road a little differently.

message 3: by Paquita Maria (last edited Jun 24, 2011 01:49PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez I watched the trailer after writing this review...there were, like, shipwrecks and what appeared to be multiple love interests, and, and...yeah, shit I just do not remember from the story that I just read this morning.

Kelly Seeeee! It is positively primeval some of the sludge that gets issued after the big one. Recently, I have been completely convinced it is just a net for money. "Wait here while I come up with something really fantastic!" By that time the reader'd have moved on to a Meyernite spin-off.

message 5: by Paquita Maria (last edited Jun 24, 2011 01:51PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez The thing is that I really like Fitzgerald. I loved Gatsby and another book of shorts that I read called The Basil and Josephine Stories. This one just didn't measure up to my memory of those.

message 6: by Steven (new)

Steven Davis They really didn't make a movie out of the story as much as they wrote a new story around the same premise. This story didn't really make much of an impression on me, other stories in the anthology feeling much stronger.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I saw most of the movie. It was slow moving but alright. There were not multiple love interests, really. There was a stupid framing device though, like really stupid.

Motheaten The movie is a lot better than the book. I quite like the movie.

message 9: by Colby (new)

Colby I've watched the movie multiple times, and it's one of my favorites, so I read the story on my kindle. I thought it was awful.

Paquita Maria Sanchez Still never watched it. Some day? This story was silly.

message 11: by Helle (new)

Helle Why do you post a review of a single short story instead of the collection as a whole?

message 12: by Paquita Maria (last edited Sep 11, 2011 11:01AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez The review is for the short story solely, and not for the 200-page collection. Unfortunately, goodreads combines them all into one clump of reviews for a shared group of isbns, rather than creating separate review sections for each. If you scroll through the different covers, you can see that they are for completely different editions with varying content. It is a kink in the system, yes, but I'm sure the intention is to conserve site space.

message 13: by Helle (new)

Helle Paquita Maria wrote: "The review is for the short story solely, and not for the 200-page collection. Unfortunately, goodreads combines them all into one clump of reviews for a shared group of isbns, rather than creati..."

Thanks for your reply! I was wondering why there was so many reviews about the short story and not the collection. Good intentions aside, I think it's annoying.

message 14: by Paquita Maria (last edited Sep 11, 2011 03:41PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez It is pretty annoying, to be honest. I have tried to become more conscientious of the specific edition listed next to the user name when I read reviews for things these days, specifically when a book has been translated from a different language. You know, there are wonderful translations and horrible translations, and they can obviously have a drastic impact on one's perception of a book's quality. Unfortunately, those too are listed under the same general title header and you have to make a specific point of clicking on that user's edition in order to see which one they are rating. Kind of a mess, really.

message 15: by Helle (last edited Sep 12, 2011 06:34AM) (new)

Helle Paquita Maria wrote: "It is pretty annoying, to be honest. I have tried to become more conscientious of the specific edition listed next to the user name when I read reviews for things these days, specifically when a b..."

I'm always sceptic of forming too strongly an oppinion of books I have only read in translation - which explains why I almost only read books originally written in Danish or English. A horrible translation can definately ruin one's perception of a book and with some languages you just have no way of knowing whether the translator or the author is to blame. So I couldn't agree more on how annoying it all is.

Julie "So, again: how is there a movie here?"
Really?? Forget about it! You are reviewing a book/short story. Obviously, you must have been watching either your DVR or TV. This is a book and the review you give tells me nothing on whether I will like this Book. I am about 10-20 Pages in and I saw the movie. It was Nothing like this story but the character Benjamin, so they obviously did Lots of script writing for the movie.

Paquita Maria Sanchez DVR? I'm sorry, but I can honestly say I have no idea what you are even talking about to begin with. Obviously, I was...watching my TV or DVR? Help me out here because this part of your comment truly does puzzle me. I thought I made it pretty clear by saying that I've never seen this movie when I said, regarding the movie, 'I have never seen it' (still haven't), but maybe that really was unclear. While we're on the subject, despite your seemingly oh-so-astute critical analysis of one sentence in my review of a story you admittedly hadn't even finished at the time that you made this comment, you are unfortunately off the mark (if I'm even understanding you right to begin with): I don't have DVR. Or a t.v. set or VCR or DVD player, actually. I do own a record player that why I can't make the movie work? Does this needle not make it go? Also, I have trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that you can't make it through more than 20 pages of a short story without scurrying off to find out what other people thought about it before forming your own opinion. Anyway, I am truly sorry if your great-great-grandniece briefly dated the set designer's intern for this movie before he died in a fiery carcrash, but I just couldn't have anticipated that before expressing my own opinion on this arguable weak short story. I hope there's no hard feelings, Julie! Have a blessed day.

P.S. I can't help but notice you capitalized Book. Is that to make some point about how good it is, like it's so good that just calling it by the standard, un-capitalized noun 'book' would be an insult to its legacy? As an extension of this thought, I'd also like to point out that you did not capitalize "movie." This just goes to show that if this Book turned into a movie rather than a Movie, it was definitely wise of me not to waste my time and money on it. Thanks, Julie!

message 18: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jeez Paquita, I thought you read this book but since Julie called you out now I have to question if you’ve really ever read any of your books. You probably just sit around watching your fancy DVRs and writing reviews about them. Maybe you’re even illiterate and you concocted this whole DVR/Goodreads scam to tricks us. Thank God for good honest citizens like Julie, sure some folk might say that assholes who have never wrote a single review themselves but go around trashing other people’s are obnoxious cunts, but they are wrong, Julie is an American treasure protecting us from terrorists like Pauqita and I for one salute her!

Paquita Maria Sanchez Well, fuck. I probably don't ever read, do I? I mean, a real reader goes around making disparaging comments about critical reviews of insanely short stories they haven't even finished yet, right? Am I right?! I guess this means I should change my 3-star rating of the novel Rosemary's Baby which inspired the 5-star film Rosemary's Baby to a five since I've only ever watched the movie on my schmancy DVR system, right? Sure, I absolutely don't live in a messy apartment with no electronics save a computer and a record player, where clothes are scattered about and I really need to do my dishes and throw away the lemon wedge that has been sitting on my counter for 2 days. In real life, I am a faux literary critic who just watches movies on my DVR system connected to my mammoth flatscreen television, and then writes book reviews about them rather than getting, say, a MUBI account and just talking about the fucking movies themselves. My dastardly plot! Foiled! I'm going to crawl inside a hole and watch some TIVO now. Maybe I can find another book turned movie to hate, and then Julie will continue to send me fan mail.

Paquita Maria Sanchez It's so nice having fans.

message 21: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Frankly I don’t even know how you just wrote all that, with your crippling illiteracy and all.

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Hail Paquita. And illiteracy.

message 23: by Paquita Maria (last edited Apr 16, 2012 06:12PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez I have a voice-activated keyboard. All I ever do is eat Cheetos and watch movies, then rub on my gut as I talk out reviews to my fancy robot computer in the bunker in which I concoct my tall tales of short stories I have supposedly managed to 'read.'

Paquita Maria Sanchez Ceridwen wrote: "Hail Paquita. And illiteracy."

It's a hard-knock life, man.

Julie Wow, must really hit a Nerve!

Paquita Maria Sanchez Thanks, Julie! Even at this high point in my career, I am still humbled by fan mail. It's so inspiring! So glad you loved the review! XOXO

Paquita Maria Sanchez Also, I see you lowered your rating by one star since we last spoke. I guess you finally managed to truck your way through this mammoth beast of a short story. Next stop, Infinite Jest!

message 28: by Kristen (last edited Apr 17, 2012 10:36AM) (new)

Kristen Dang, you got insulted by a Quaker! That. Is. Awesome. Normally they are a very peaceful, nonviolent people but in your case Julie probably could sense the work of satan in your DVR review. Clearly satan is at work in all your reviews, which is why they're better than my non-satan-assisted-reviews. Now if you excuse me I'm off watch a Mitch Albom DVD and then write a book review about it.

Paquita Maria Sanchez Yeah, that Quaker hit me! In the nerve! I'm sorry, Julie, but I've about had it trying to handle this by myself. If you hit me again, I swear to Lucifer himself that I'm going to report it to the goodreads higher-ups. Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins, Judie!

message 30: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Julie is clearly some type of sociopath, for your own safety you'd better delete your account, move and change you name. I made a Julie voodoo doll myself and everyday I pray to Mitch Albom that he take revenge on her for what she did to you!

Natalie I totally agree. The book was amazingly simple, the movie, unfortunately was not

message 32: by Ruud (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruud I liked the story better than this thread.

Paquita Maria Sanchez I'm happy for you.

message 34: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Sarkies Your review seems to be longer than the story, and also much more engaging.

message 35: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I actually found the movie version to be quite good (but pretty sad). I haven't actually read the short story because Fitzgerald has not been my cup of tea so far, but I could give it a shot. I doubt I'd like it very much...

message 36: by Ivan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ivan yes... you dont know what you are missing.... the movie is fantastic and very well done! go see it!!!!

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