Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
PLOT: A child is born and a mother dies. But there is something very wrong with this baby, it has all the symptoms of a sickly, dying old man. The father abandons the child to what he hopes will be a caring environment. This is where Benjamin Button’s life begins, as he is taken in by a loving woman. And as the child grows, his old age seems to disappear into a youthful appearance. It seemingly leads to his birth which must ultimately be his death. A love story lies in between.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is one of the most touching and thought provoking love stories I’ve ever seen. Fate, mortality, life and death, all of this is explored in a beautifully crafted film without seeping into sentimentality. I was almost surprised at how unlike a David Fincher film this seemed. While I feel that he is one of the best directors working in film today, it seemed like this was uncharted territory for him in a startlingly original way. Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this tale of a man who finds himself aging backward, is filled with some really beautiful images. Whether it be a haunting war zone in the middle of the ocean, or a beautiful view of the sunrise, it is all as delicate and surreal as life itself can be.
When Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born, he is hideous. Not only does his mother die in childbirth, the baby’s father is so shocked and terrified of what he and his wife brought to life that he decides to abandon the child. Although his intention is to murder the “devil” child, the father finds he doesn’t have the heart to do such a thing. This baby by all accounts, has the body of an old and decrepit man, and he is surely soon to die. Thankfully, this child is delivered to a loving woman by the name of Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) who sees to it that he has a normal childhood. And thanks to this young child‘s “mother“, he doesn‘t die. He simply seems to grow young. Ironically, he grows up with old men and women, who are more than a little bothered by the old man/child’s antics. Meanwhile, Benjamin finds himself gaining strength and a youthful vitality each and every day.
While you could put a whole lot of thought about what the film is trying to say here, it would do disservice to generalize it. You could talk about the struggle that any special needs child has to face on a day to day basis. What about the sad and pathetic way some view an older generation. It is safe to say that THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is about all of this, while also presenting a love story that spans generations. It is a very young age that Ben meets Daisy, a name that F. Scott Fitzgerald seems rather fond of. Somewhere in the middle, both Ben and Daisy (Cate Blanchett) meet and have a few moments of happiness. And all of this, is a history that is told through the eye’s of an older woman and her diary. The woman’s daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) reads to her while everyone around them prepare for Hurricane Katrina. Yes, it is obvious the old woman is Daisy, but it is a splendid idea to bring real life history to this fantasy.
The script by FORREST GUMP scribe, shares similar elements with the Tom Hanks film, but I found it to be much more elegant than Gump. In one particular moment, while Ben and a very young Daisy hide under a table past bedtime, there is a sweet moment of innocence, but soon it treads into a very sad place. A slight complaint I have about the film is that I did find Daisy to be sometimes quite pretentious. She is a dancer in her younger years, and she is full of grace… and pompousness. I found her to be a very shallow individual but as real people do, she matures and realizes there is much more to life than her art. Yet while her character didn’t always hit the right notes, there is a glimmer of the classic WUTHERING HEIGHTS beneath the layers of Button. After all, Cathy is somewhat of a pain in Heathcliff’s side as their epic love story unfolds. In the end, I found Button to be captivating, intelligent and absolutely one of the best films of the year.
I respect the fact that Fincher told a story like this. He created an almost dreamlike, fairytale world that was rooted deep within reality. I have to say, Fincher and Pitt are proving to be as wonderful of a match as Burton and Depp. And speaking of Pitt, I have to say that he is truly remarkable here. His Ben is an innocent, but not ever in a pathetic or weak state. He is able to pull an audience in with his sincere and touching performance. All of this is helped tremendously by some really brilliant make-up and visual effects. What is more impressive than seeing an aging Brad Pitt, is seeing the man in his former twenty-year-old state. Each and every element is collected in a beautiful film that plays like a memory. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a gem that will not be forgotten. My rating 9.5/10 -- JimmyO