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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Beautifully told story about a life lived in reverse
Reviewed by Matthew Arnoldi
Monday, 2 March 2009 - 9:08am
David Fincher’s latest is a memorable and beautifully told story about a man who goes through life in a reverse way to everybody else. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born as a baby looking old. We are shown the delinquent father (Jason Flemying) at the beginning, carrying a baby with the precise aim of leaving him in someone else’s doorway, wanting to abandon his child and leave him for someone else to bring up.
Fortuitously, Benjamin is left in the doorway of an Old people’s care home where a lovely lady called Queenie (played beautifully by Taraji Henson) immediately takes him in – Benjamin may look ugly but to Queenie, he is a child of the Lord, and she will bring him up not questioning his parenting or what is happening to him.
A story then that will span Benjamin Button’s life will take him from childhood as a small but old man through to living his life from World War 1 in New Orleans through decades leading up to the present-day and Benjamin will grow old regressing until he is a baby when then he will be ‘very old’.
Taken from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Eric Roth has come up with a fascinating screenplay where at the heart of the story, is a lifelong romance between Benjamin and his childhood sweetheart Daisy (played by Cate Blanchett). Daisy like the rest of us, is simply going through life as we would and she has to contend and show love to a lover getting younger all the time (any woman would see that as maddening !). She can understand that Benjamin has a genetic condition different from the rest of us, but it is long after childhood when the two of them realise that they have a bond and must make the most of a relationship that will challenge both of them.
Nominated for a host of Golden Globe nominations, winner of three technical Baftas and now of course up also for the odd Oscar, Fincher’s film is indeed curious, its an apt title and it does reflect in a gentle but intuitive way on the seven stages of life from childhood to old age. Its also a great Valentine’s movie. The special effects team have done a brilliant job in transforming Brad Pitt into an old man showing as the decades follow, how he becomes older, getting younger. It’s only later on in Button’s life as he becomes older and becomes a boy (Brad Pitt unable then to play him) that the film moves fairly swiftly, almost too quickly towards its ending.
There are some beautiful romantic moments between Daisy and Benjamin, the most notable being a moonlit moment when ballerina Daisy, looks absolutely to die for, she glides across an empty bandstand in silhouette form and wants a shy Benjamin to take her svelte-like form in his arms. Any man who has seen a golden opportunity like this in some way pass them by and later bitterly lived to regret not doing anything about it at the time, will identify with the scene and Cate Blanchett has never looked more bewitching.
There is something beautifully cinematic about the whole experience. It’s a satisfying experience that easily reinforces that cinema sometimes is about magic and escapism, and its up to you to go along with David Fincher and his vision (directing a film along way away from the likes of Fight Club) and see where the film will take you.
The film should do well, it deserves to. It has moments of great humour, it handles well the phenomenon of growing old and dying getting younger and the film is awe-inspiring for its ability to take you on a journey and show you in a cogent way how this genetic misplacement would need to be mastered and showing how others could in a beautifully kind and natural way, find a way of coming to terms with it and in that way, the film is an uplifting and beautiful embracement of life itself, leaving you with a message of : live life to the full and enjoy every moment of it, which of course, isn’t a bad message to promote ultimately.