Friday, January 23, 2009

The Road and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Do you like to give recommendations to family and friends for books and movies that you have enjoyed, feeling fairly safe in your opinion that they will also enjoy them? I usually have no problem doing that, but I have been literally haunted lately by both a book and a movie that I'd like to tell you about that both come with a caveat recommendation of "read or see at your own risk."

Why?

They are not the type of feel good, happy ending stories that I think most people enjoy, yet I think they are worthwhile because they will make you think about your perceptions of life for a long time afterwards. They both contain events that shatter the concept of normalcy and introduce an element of survival under the most adverse conditions, which will have you questioning your own strengths as well as the power of hope.

The book is the novel "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where we follow a father and son as they travel toward the coast, fleeing the onset of winter. They must survive by any means possible, but they are determined not to enter into the ultimate acts of horror where starvation has led others.
McCarthy's writing skillfully compels you to keep reading, and he keeps the language simple and the chapters fast moving, but also fills them with both poignant and powerful imagery. He makes you feel compassion for the nameless father and son so much that you must know what happens to them. I could not put the book down and felt the need to finish it almost entirely in one sitting.
Can love survive in a brutal world, can we make the ultimate sacrifice for it? Are all our realities so frail and so easily destroyed?
This is an unforgettable book, and one I believe will become a classic. The Road was the winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Literature, and is in production to be made into a movie starring Viggo Mortensen for release in 2009

The movie is "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," a drama released in 2008, based on the 1921 short story of the same name written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The film was directed by David Fincher, written by Eric Roth, and stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

Eric Roth almost completely rewrote Fritzgerald's short story which can be read in its entirety here. What he kept was the main premise of the story about what it would be like to age in reverse.
The movie synopsis the Paramount Pictures web site:

"We follow his story, set in New Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918, into the 21st century, following his journey that is as unusual as any man’s life can be. Benjamin Button is a grand tale of a not-so-ordinary man and the people and places he discovers along the way, the loves he finds, the joys of life and the sadness of death, and what lasts beyond time."

I found it to be an enthralling fantasy, well acted, beautiful in its detail, with a cinematography that had a dreamy sepia quality about it that made me feel as if I was watching an vintage film. There were many quiet little subplots within the story, little gems of wisdom which could easily be missed, but which somehow all come together in the end. I was literally in tears many times watching it, especially at the end, but I went away feeling enriched by the experience. It is a movie that requires you to pay attention, to feel, to think. It made me appreciate the normal process of aging, and the realization that although "we live our lives forward, but understand them backward," as observed by the Danish philosopher Kierkeguard, that process is a gift which would not serve us well in reverse.

However, this is not to say the movie is not without its critics. As I left the theater I heard many a grumble from the departing audience that it was "one of the worst movies they ever saw," and many complained about the length, which is close to three hours. I do repeat that you should see it at your own discretion, as it is an unusual and reflective tale, but I feel somewhat vindicated in my favorable impressions of it due to the fact that it received 13 Academy Award nominations today!

I'd love to know what your opinions are if you read the book, and or saw the movie, and I hope I piqued your interest if you haven't.

37 comments:

steviewren said...

Pat, I read The Road. I found it as compelling as you did, but oh so dark. It has been a couple of years since I read it and as always I've lost some of the details, but I remember thinking the ending while partially expected still left the reader with a little hope. My son in law recommended it. He loved it...if that type of enthusiasm can be applied to this book.

My daughter and her husband (same SIL) went to see the movie. Rachel really liked it, her hubby didn't. He doesn't like to see sad movies....obviously he can read sad books, but not see them. Rachel said I should see it, it is the type of movie I would like.

I enjoyed reading your take on both. I am reading the last book in the Twilight series...not literary reading, but oh so entertaining. I'm hooked on the story.

Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

Hi Pat,
I haven't read The Road and appreciate the recommendation! I have always like a variety of reading material!

I did see the movie, and really liked it. I don't know why it received so much criticism...I thought the acting was awesome!

I do have to say that I thought it was a little long and drawn in in parts...especially the beginning.

I liked it enough to go see it again!

:) Diane

Gracie said...

I didn't erad the book altough I've read others by McCarthy and I like his style. I should try this one and see by myself.
On the movie front, you're talking to one of the mods of a site dedicated to mr Pitt (www.simplybrad.com and the relative forum), so I'm a little partial when talking about him and his performances. Unfortunately I have to wait a lot before seeing the movie here in Italy.

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Thanks so much for the recommendations, Pat.

I love the photo of Leo, what a wonderful smile!! He's so beautful.

Rachael said...

Pat,

Thanks for the recommendations!


I read "All the Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy several years ago and it was pretty good. I have not yet read "The Road".

I am loving the book "Reading Lolita in Tehran"....Nafisi is a brilliant writer and she has a new book out now too :-)

I will have to share your opinion of "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" with my parents, they are planning to see it tomorrow night.

Jojo said...

I am so glad to read your thoughts about the film. Our family has been going out on Thursday nights to see some of the films currently in theaters, many of which are currently nominated or have won awards. This was one that I wanted to see by my son had already seen it. I might wait to watch it on dvd. There are so many good films out right now that it is hard to keep up with the viewing.

Did you see Slumdog Millionaire? I loved the film but I found myself comparing it to City of God, and City of God in my unqualified opinion is a much better film.

Look forward to reading other thoughts on the movie.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Yes, I do love hearing about good books and movies. I have read at least four other reviews...all good...of this movie and have been suggesting/begging that we go see it. I think we will just as soon as we aren't in need of such copious amounts of tissues, though it sounds as if we still might need a box.

Betsy said...

That movie sounds very intruiging to me!

pammiejo said...

I saw the movie and was impressed - but, had I believed the reviews, I would not have gone to see it on my own. I was persuaded by friends to go and was glad I did. Interesting that it's getting all these awards - what were the critics thinking? I'll keep The Road in mind for a good read. PAM

ARLENE said...

Pat, I haven't read The Road, but will look for it. As for Benjamin Button, I remember reading the short story back in grad school. I will see the film; just have been busy with others. I would strongly recommend Slumdog Millionaire. What an incredible film! I did a movie marathon last week just to get out of the house in the frigid weather. Saw Last Chance Harvey and Gran Torino, too. Entertaining, but that's all. I've been waiting for Defiance and Revolutionary Road to open and they did today.

Cori G. said...

Hi Pat
We saw B.B. New Years day and just loved the story and photography. It was such a beautiful tale of love and bad timing. I think both Cate Blanchet and Tilda Swinton were amazing.
Have a fun Friday.

Bo said...

Hi Pat...The movie is on my to see list...now, perhaps the book is on my to read list... ;-) Bo

Junie Moon said...

Like you, I hesitate to suggest books or movies to others. When I do, I hold my breath waiting to see what others think. I've not read The Road nor seen the movie you've discussed today. However, I will add the book to my list for reading soon (already have next week's books chosen which I'll blog next week) but will wait for the movie to come out in DVD so I can watch at home instead of the theater. That way I can go to the bathroom when I want due to the movie's length and cry like a baby without being humiliated in public.

Excellent post, Pat!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Pat, I'm a Cormac McCarthy fan. First of all, I like the starkness, or rather spareness, of his writing. He cuts to the bare bones, and in doing so writes with such clarity and force. I read the border trilogy and enjoyed it. So I bet this is something I would enjoy reading. I try to keep my reading heavy on the happy side, but I do enjoy angst when it's well written which McCarthy knows how to accomplish.

And I have got to see that movie! I would love to sit in the theatre for three hours. That makes me feel I got my money's worth! LOL! Fitzgerald is one of my favorite writers, so I would be interested to see how they reinterpretted his work.

Thank you for the reviews. I trust your suggestions completely.

XO,

Sheila :-)

GMG said...

Hi Pat! TGIF!! ;)
So I'll try to read a book and watch a movie this weekend! Thanks for the tips!!
Blogtrotter is still posting on Delhi! Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

I also read The Road and agree completely with your review. I was horrified as I read but so concerned with the father and son, I had to keep reading it to find out what happened to them. I hesitate to ever recommend this book because it is so dark but I can honestly say it is the best book I have ever read. McCarthy is brillant. Amy J

Michele said...

I read The Road and I feel the same way you do. My only complaint was that I thought there would have been a happier ending. I thought something really big would happen. It felt like it was leading up to something and it never happened.

I haven't seen the movie yet but I really would like to. Thanks for putting the link to the short story here. I never heard of it before the movie and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Thanks Pat!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Michele

I also wished The road ended differently, but in a way I think he felt it was up to us to end it in our own minds.

The movie is very different from the short story -- the only part they used was the name of Benjamin Button and the premise of being born an old man and aging backward. I loved the movie, the short story wasn't as interesting but still worth reading.

Thanks everyone for your comments--I'm enjoying them!

Judy said...

Most interesting post, Pat! I ordered the book 'The Road' after seeing Cormac McCarthy interviewed on Oprah. Now it has been sitting here on my office shelf for over a year...unread. My son and son-in-law have both informed me that I will NOT enjoy the book, since it is very dark. But one of these days I will crack it open...and see for myself! So glad you offered another perspective.

I also have full intentions of seeing 'Benjamin Button' sometime soon...I've heard mostly good reports from those who have.

Maryjane - The Beehive Cottage said...

GREAT reviews! I hope to see BB this weekend! Lovely blog and enjoyed my visit!

Hugs,
Maryjane

aliceinparis said...

LOVED Benjamin Button. LV)VED. Haven't read The Road but have heard lots of good things about it. I also loved Slumdog Millionaire:)

Melissa Miller said...

Hi Pat,
I have not seen the movie but it looks like it is on track to win the Oscar for best picture. We will rent it for sure. It looks wonderful.
Have a great weekend.
~Melissa :)

jeanne said...

Pat thank you for your visit and comment on my post today. Your recommendations and your take on 'The Road' sound compelling. I will check the library and check it out. I really enjoy reading your text. You write beautifully.
I have heard the movie Benjamin Button is a good movie even if it is a little long. I want to see it if only because of the Academy nominations.

Have a great weekend.

Hugs...Jeanne

Melanie said...

Oh thank goodness for that! It's been bugging me I knew the name but I couldn't place it- Fitzgerald's short story. I could kiss you hun. I read about the awards and the cogs in my brain said ..."familiar".

I'm down to my last 2 unread books- Gone With the Wind (Atlanta is being burned at the mo) and after that To Serve Them All My Days. So Thank you very much for the book recommendation. I think I am very far behind with the cinema- we only saw the wonderful August Rush on DVD over the hols and it had been out a while.

Helen said...

Thank you so much for the visit .. Leo is adorable and I know how you treasure him. I must tell you my grandmother name is Woonie! I like yours too. I also love NYC and get there when I can. It was much easier to get there living in Orlando.

Paris said...

Hi Pat...have not read the book or seen the movie...but I plan to. Hope you are doing well. Miss your beautiful smile! :) **hugs**

Knitting Mania said...

LOVED the movie Pat. I had no makeup left on my face after crying it off for 3 hours.

So thrilled it has received so many nominations. Brad out did himself this time around.

Great Review!

dana said...

I have not heard of The Road until this share of yours--it does sound interesting. We haven't seen B. Button. I've heard mixed reviews from folks who have seen it--I'll probably wait for the DVD as I'm sure my hubby won't want to see it (it's not slap stick or a Western!). Hope you're having a great weekend. Dana

Gina said...

I'm yet to read The Road..will definitely add to my list...and I'm hoping to see movie this week :D

Picket said...

Morning girl...I don't know about books or movies that end in such a strange way..I will be so involved with a movie and how great it is..hanging on the edge of my seat and then at the end it takes a horrible twist...oh my word...what is that! lol lol I love that little Leo smiling in the other post Pat...that is just too cute!!!
Hope you are having a great weekend my friend!

Rosie's Whimsy said...

I enjoy dystopias and The Road was a recommendation from Lola's Mom that I read or should say devoured! if you haven't read The Pesthouse yet I would recommend that one to you :-)

I just download BB short story and am reading it slowly.....ahte to see a movie without reading the book first!

Rhonda said...

Pat,

I haven't read the book but sounds intriguing and haven't seen the movie but I would like to. Little Leo is growing up!

Rhonda

Camille said...

Thank you for the recommendations. Right now I am on a bit of a light reading kick. But, when I'm finished I'll definitely check out The Road. Of course, I want to see Benjamin Button. I think Cate Blanchett is amazing, possibly my favorite actress. But, I'm glad the movie has a classic feel...I love older movies.

Check out the books by AJ Jacobs...a laugh a minute. I wrote about one on my other blog:
http://beingyael.blogspot.com/

Proud Italian Cook said...

I can't wait to see the movie Pat, I might be going with some girlfriends this week. I'll look into that book too. Thanks!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I was reluctant to read The Road due to the darkness of the premise. I was working on a decorating project for a client at the time who kept telling me to read it and finally drove by and put a copy in my mailbox. Needless to say, I felt I had to read it then. And was so very glad I did. What an amazing story; it gripped me totally on the first page. So much truth inside such spare language.

Lisa B. said...

I love books and movies that make me think! Thanks for the great recommendations...they'll go on the list:)

supplies overflowing! said...

Hi Pat- I too, saw the movie, and cried beginning with the opening scene. I don't like to cry in theaters- but it happened. Anyway, about the experience...I loved the movie, and so did my 2 daughters, sister and niece. Some young men I knew who were in the same movie house and are 19 and 20 also really liked the movie. One note though, as Benjamin grew towards middle age, and younger, he was able to take advantage of the things that his aged body wouldn't allow, thus possibly appreciating those things a bit more. How fotunate that he had love- first his mother, then Cate's character (can't remember her name!)
Thanks for the recommendations- I always love to hear about books to read.
That Leo- Love the photos- his personality is emerging!!
jenny