MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

By Emily Hoover |

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” directed by David Fincher of “Fight Club” and “Se7en” fame, shares themes of “The Notebook,” and “My Girl” in its study of aging, death and the power of first love, even though it is less moving. Yet, it is captivating in its quest for love and contemplative in its exploration of mortality. It beckons the question: would it be better to stay young?

Loosely, very loosely, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story of the same name, it follows Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), born in New Orleans in 1918. His case is curious indeed. Shriveled up and arthritic in infancy, Benjamin is born into a prominent family. His father (Jason Flemyng), wounded by the death of his wife while giving birth and disgusted by his son’s appearance, leaves Benjamin at an old-age home governed by Queenie (Taraji P.Henson), a sassy, street-smart black woman, following an attempt to throw him in the river. Even though Queenie already cares for many, she takes him in as her own, believing that he will soon die.

A few years pass and Benjamin beats the odds. He grows, aging backwards. In early childhood he is confined to a wheelchair; he later begins to walk with a cane. Upon reaching early adolescence, he meets Daisy (later played by Cate Blanchett), who is around his age although he looks at least seventy. They develop a peculiar friendship which becomes a love; a driving force which carries both characters through their lives. Benjamin, at a very young age, has his first sexual experience and drinks his first alcoholic beverage. He also spends time working on a tug boat, travels the world, serves in World War II and has a charming affair with a married woman (Tilda Swinton).

Meanwhile, Daisy finishes school and becomes a dancer in New York and Paris. Despite many meetings and setbacks, they finally come together at the right time, physically. Yet, they know that their love will be tested as she grows older and he younger.

The style of the film is visually impeccable. It epitomizes each time period it displays, including the jazz age. Moreover, the make-up artists should be commended for re-creating “Thelma and Louise” Brad Pitt. However, there are a few flaws within the film. While Blanchett’s Daisy is feisty and free-spirited, Pitt, once again, plays the role of the brooding, beautiful protagonist. His inquisitive eyes and limited speech as a young (old) boy (man) serve as the highlight of his performance. As he grows older mentally, he becomes a less interesting character, despite his miraculous medical mystery. He has no ambitions or revelations. He has no insightful remarks about his condition. He is an undeveloped character in a complex fable.

Luckily, it mirrors “Forrest Gump,” Eric Roth wrote the screenplays for both films, in that there is an almost impossible adventure; readers cheer for their sensitive and charismatic protagonist as he journeys through his life.

As readers learn of Benjamin’s feat through his diary, read to an ailing Daisy by her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) at the dawning of Hurricane Katrina, we embrace momentary reality, even if it seems superfluous on the surface. It is appropriate to juxtapose Katrina with his fantasy, for damage only spawns rebirth.

Apart from its flaws, this movie is an experience. It is intriguing, amusing and well worth its 167 minute timeframe. As Oscar season approaches, everyone will be curious to see if this film makes the cut.

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