Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Button vs. Gump: Round 2

Let me introduce this half-baked thought about the reception of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Lots of critics have compared it rightly to "Forrest Gump," for screenwriter Eric Roth adapted both. (For some food for thought, check out the review that LaMovBlog super-reader Chris Jay pimped in the previous post.) While "Button" and "Gump" are great companion pieces, the stories come from different eras and paint their heroes with wildly different brushes.

Right now, I’m thinking about “Benjamin Button” as the anti-Gump. Pitt’s Button is very ordinary, stone-faced, melancholic and good-lookin’. (Perhaps Pitt is doing his best Keanu Reeves impression.) Never really accomplishes anything. Witnesses history but never takes part in it. Loves and always loses. In the end, a lost man. A poor man. Perennial loser.

Not like Hanks’ everyman, who was extraordinarily ordinary, innocent, funny, accidentally heroic and kinda homely. Loves, loses but endures. In the end, a happy man. Stinking rich. An agent of renewal.

I think critics are defining their ideal heroes when they compare Button and Gump. If more favor Gump, then it supports my pet theory about Hollywood heroes: Losers never win.

Who has more to say about who we are? Which movie do you like better? Or do you, like this critic, loathe both?


chrisbrad said...

You (and a complicated mix of other bloggers) have nailed it:

Gump (and Hanks) are the Everyman.
Button (and Pitt) are the No Man.

We can all relate in innumerable ways to Gump and his world. But as familiar and real as Button's world is, well, none of us can relate to it. And that, my friends, is the beauty of "Benjamin Button."

I have to say, I saw it again yesterday with some other friends and it is growing on me. While I knew it was a geat film the first go-round, it seemed more special the second time. The mesmerizing effects can be pushed to the side (hear that effects-crazed critics), and the awesomeness of everything about "Button" can shine.

And if Fincher doesn't win best director, well, there may be a few super-readers rioting in the streets of The Shreve come award night...

Kathryn Usher said...

I've seen Gump. Haven't seen Button. At the risk of offending some folks with my radical feminist thoughts...um, do I really care about another story/movie about another (white) male? Although I did enjoy the documentary this weekend that was on the Sundance Channel about underground filmmaker Jack Smith.

P.S. Love the banner assignment. I'm digging out my shots and dusting them off.

Alexandyr Kent said...

cb: A little advice. Don't give advanced notice on a street riot. An early arrest takes all the fun out of it.

KU: Should you care? I'd say yup, if only for your state's sake. Benjamin Button is one of the saddest white male protagonists to come out of Louisiana in a long time. (I write that with the deepest affection and understanding.)