June 01, 2009
Review - " The Curious Case of Benjamin Button "
- (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Faune A Chambers, Taraji
"I was born under unusual circumstances" And so begins "The Curious Case
of Benjamin Button" adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgeral.
"Benjamin Button" follows the life of a man who is born old and grows young. A
man, like any of us, who is unable to stop time. We follow his story, set in New
Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918, into the 21st century,
following his journey that is as unusual as any man's life can be. While it might
sound humorous, it is anything but. When Benjamin (Pitt) is born, his mother
dies in childbirth, but the screaming baby needs love an attention. When his
father takes one look at the infant, he knows he cannot love this strange
baby. The child has the characteristics of an old man, but he is still just a
baby. So his father drops him off on the steps of a senior boarding house
where he is certain the child will be cared for.
Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) finds the baby and she immediately begins taking
care of him. The local doctor says the baby will not live long, so Queenie
takes it upon herself to care for him during his short life. But Benjamin
surprises everyone and lives.
Queenie raises Benjamin as her son – her rather unusual son. As he grows up he lives out his years in the 80s, and year by
year he grows younger, and lives through his 70s then his 60s, and so on. When he was quite young in terms of his lifetime
on the planet, he meets a young girl named Daisy (who in older years is played by Cate Blanchett). Their instant rapport
takes them off guard. He is a little old man and she is a young girl. As the years go by, Daisy continues to visit her
grandmother in the boarding home, and she and Benjamin continue their friendship.
Then Benjamin decides it is time for him to leave, so he takes a job on a tug boat. This offers him more than just a job and
money to buy things. It offers him the chance to see the world. In Russia he falls in love with a married woman, but soon
discovers things don’t always work out.
Meanwhile, Benjamin and Daisy share their
experiences via post cards as their
friendship grows. Then in later years they
finally meet again and this time they know
they are destined to be together.
Everything goes well for the young couple,
with the exception she is getting older and
he is getting younger. When Daisy discovers
she is pregnant, that throws Benjamin into a
tailspin. He is worried that the child will be
born like he was, and if the baby is normal,
then he won’t be able to take care of it like a
real father because soon he will pass her in
age. While she is aging, he will be getting
younger. What kind of a father is that?
Benjamin insists Daisy finds a good father
for their little girl, and he takes off. Years
later, Benjamin and Daisy realize he made
the right decision.
The end of his life is much like the beginning of life for the rest of the population on the planet.
Pitt’s portrayal of the strange life is engaging. To play a man’s life backwards is definitely unusual. And thinking about
Benjamin’s life causes pause. How would it be to get the old part of one’s life over before the early years? While some
people would like to change places with Benjamin, it doesn’t seem all it’s cracked up to be. Yet this man faces his life with
dignity and courage.
To say this is a strange story is putting it mildly. Taken from the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald of the same title, The
Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a sad and strange tale of life, love, and fate.
The versatile Director David Fincher, who
also directed Pitt in Fight Club and Se7en,
made Benjamin Button lengthy but he
keeps you occupied with the sumptuous
visual design and smoothly executed
special effects that don't steal the
characters' thunder. After all, it's the cast
that not only assured box-office draw but
also made sure that you are emotionally
engaged. It's difficult not to feel for each
one of them. As his life is played all
throughout, you will share in Benjamin's
curiosity and innocence. You will feel the
frustration, heartbreak and devotion of his
lifelong love Daisy (played by the
marvelously chameleonic Cate Blanchett). Julia Ormond's thespic skills didn't seem necessary though as Daisy's daughter
Caroline, but Taraji P. Henson deserves a best supporting actress nod for her moving portrayal as Queenie. Also
praiseworthy is Tilda Swinton's short but impactful performance as Benjamin's first lover Elizabeth. You will watch it for the
commercial appeal and grateful for each moment you have with your loved ones. At least that's what you should take home
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is
a beautiful film that reveals its treasures
to those who have the patience to stay
with it for the whole journey. It’s far more
than a simple love story or a quick pass
through history. This film touches on
deeper and darker subjects, albeit with a
gentleness that masks the rawness of the
nerves being exposed. Fans of Brad Pitt
and Cate Blanchett (as well as those of
Tilda Swinton) will enjoy their