Book Smart: Oscar Reads, On The “Button”

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Anyone can see the movie; only smarties read the book. This year all five nominees for Best Picture are stolen from based on literary sources. We’re giving you a cheat sheet to all of Hollywood’s hippest reads.

First up is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Based on a 1921 F. Scott Fitzgerald story, it snapped up a whopping 13 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Brad Pitt as a man born old who gets younger each day. Pitt took the “go-ugly” requirement for Oscar Gravitas (see: Charlize Theron, “Monster”) to a new level (see above, ew).

The original story is 26 pages, so director David Fincher and screenwriter Eric Roth had to add stuff so the movie wouldn’t be, like, 26 minutes. Here’s a rundown of the movie vs. the book:

Space and Time

  • On page: Baltimore, MD, from 1860 to 1930.
  • On screen: New Orleans, LA from the Jazz Age through Katrina.

Moms and Dads

  • On page: Benjamin is raised by his father with a mix of tough love and, uh, tougher love.
  • On screen: Pa Button dumps his newborn ugly duck on Queenie’s steps. Queenie, played by Oscar-nommed Taraji P. Henson, runs an old-age home (how convenient!) and becomes a warm and supportive surrogate mother figure.

Education

  • On page: Benjamin is a Harvard-man, excelling at football.
  • On screen: Pitt’s man-boy gets schooled in the ways of the world on a tugboat, but does not get any sort of regular education with, like, books.

The Love Story

  • On page: The romance between Benjamin and the dumpily-named Hildegard fades into the background as she grows older and less hot while he grows younger and more attractive.
  • On screen: Benjamin’s smoldering romance with the sexily-named Daisy (Cate Blanchett) never dies. It heats up the screen for most of the film’s three hours (and most of the 20th century).

Family Affairs

  • On page: Fitzgerald’s main story is Benjamin’s rocky relationship with his son, Roscoe, who ends up taking care of his baby daddy at the end of his life.
  • On screen: In the movie, Benji and Daisy have a daughter, but he abandons them, I guess cuz all young men are irresponsible and incompetent? Still, now-ancient Daisy cares for his gross baby oldness, I guess cuz women sadly love standing by their man-childs?
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