Movie Review – The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonDecember 21, 2008 Written by JP [Font too small?]
When we’re children we often look forward to being older. We think of all of the opportunities that will magically present themselves if we could simply have some extra years to allow us access. But somewhere along the line our desire to add numbers to our age takes a radical shift. We find ourselves well into our adult lives wondering what it might be like to go back to a simpler time. That’s often the way life presents itself to us. But that’s not the case for a curious man named Benjamin Button.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a new film by director David Fincher. It stars Brad Pitt in the title role. This same creative duo previously worked on two other influential films together: Se7en and Fight Club. Benjamin Button is a very different kind of film than their previous collaborations. It’s much more poetic and tender in tone. One of the reasons for this may be that it’s loosely based on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This mysterious film begins in 1918 with the birth of Benjamin, which results in the death of his mother. His dying mother pleads with her husband to always care for their newborn boy. Just as we are wondering why he wouldn’t care for his new baby, the distraught father takes a look at his son. This baby is no ordinary baby. He looks old. Very old and sickly. In his selfish grief and desperation, the father snatches the baby from his crib and abandons him at the steps of an old-age home. He waits until the child is found and leaves under the cover of night.
The house mother of the old age home, played marvelously by Taraji Henson, takes the child into her arms and declares him a miracle from God. She doesn’t know how right she is. Because this baby will live a life like no other. His mind will mature normally, but his body will age in reverse. He will not grow older. He will grow younger. And so the fantastical story begins.
I think this is a brilliant film for many reasons. It presents itself as fantasy – a modern day parable. But at its core it’s subtly and persistently prodding us to ask ourselves important questions. The most obvious question that comes to mind is whether or not we’d rather stay young while all those around us grow old. It also forces us to face our own mortality. But that’s just the jumping-off point. I could tell you all the questions that popped into my mind while watching, but I don’t want to influence your cinematic experience.
You might think that the premise of this film would make for a saddening experience. I found it to be quite the opposite. It’s life-affirming. But more than that, it’s alive. We feast on the images while becoming engrossed in the characters’ epic journey. I kept trying to anticipate where it would go and how would it end. I’m not ashamed to say that I was consistently wrong. In my book, that alone makes for a richly rewarding film-going experience. It’s not the only reason to see this film. But it sure is fun to genuinely enjoy the ride while not knowing where you’re going or where you’ll end up.
The film showcases great direction, wonderful writing and stellar performances. It is truly a gorgeous film in both sight and sound. It runs about 2:45 hours and is rated “PG-13”. It does contain brief adult content in the form of a few profanities, a war battle scene and a few discrete sexual situations.
Recently, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was nominated for five Golden Globe awards – Best Dramatic Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. It opens on Thursday, December 25th in theaters everywhere.
If you get a chance to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, please let me know what you think of it.
Posted in Movies