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Looking Great For His Age(s) — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

December 28, 2008

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)
d. David Fincher 

“You never know what’s coming for you.”

So says a number of characters in David Fincher’s excellent film, and in many ways, it speaks about events within the film as well as commenting on the narrative. Showing the same masterly restraint (compared to his earlier work) that steered his overlooked Zodiac, Benjamin Button is many ways a study of life’s lessons over time as the former film was a study of procedure and investigation over time.

Fincher’s control and exercise in period detail help support a strong romantic story about the person (Brad Pitt) who was born old and grows younger as time passes. We learn as the character learns how life has its own plans and how one can live within that. It is in many ways a very tragic tale as the story, framed in the present in a hospital ward where the dying Daisy (a luminous Cate Blanchett) is tended by her daughter, centers on Daisy’s doomed romance with Benjamin.

When Benjamin is born, a wrinkled dying baby, his father, horrified, abandons him at the steps of a nursing home. It is this setting where time’s inexorable forward march and life’s fleetingness surrounds Benjamin; people come and go, either through death or traveling through. As he grows younger, he meets Daisy when she is but 5 years old, but it is love at first sight. They meet time and again as she grows older, and despite our hopes that theirs is an eternal love story, we know as the characters also know, that nothing is perfect forever.

Along the way, Benjamin meets many interesting characters who help teach him about life and its passing. His adoptive mother, played brilliantly by Taraji Henson, loves him and treats him as the son she always wanted. Everyone from his father (Mahershalalashbaz Ali) who quotes Shakespeare, to the tugboat captain (Jared Harris) who reveals his desire to be an artist, to his first real love (Tilda Swinton) who attempted to swim the Channel, all teach him that there is more to people than meets the eye; that, like himself, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and that there is depth beneath the skin. Each actor does amazing work here, all better supported by a great script by Eric Roth (no stranger to the historical epic as he also wrote Forrest Gump and Munich).

And through it all there are portents of fate, that, in spite of the opening story of Gateau and his desire to turn back time with his backwards counting clock and regain his son who was killed in WWI, time cannot be thwarted. And as Benjamin grows older and towards his inescapable fate, so too does the story countdown to when Katrina makes landfall in New Orleans, its flood waters rising to wash away the past in an unforgettable last image.

This haunting tale of love, loss and life is carried on the talented (and perfectly formed) shoulders of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, whose performances shine brightly. Outstanding work by everyone involved.

**** stars.

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2 comments

  1. i was pleasantly surprised to find out that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the short story upon which Benjamin Button (the movie) was based, they mention this in the opening credits


    • From what I understand, the movie varies much from the original short story.



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