Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The movie heralded as being the crowning achievements for director David Fincher and star Brad Pitt suffered the steamroll marketing machine that was SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. So in what should have been a clean sweep at the Oscars, Button was relegated to an afterthought in the minds of the American public. That’s a shame, because even though I loved Slumdog, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is an epic film that reaches an emotional level that we haven’t seen in a long time.
Button tells the life story of Benjamin Button, who is cursed/blessed with the unusual quality of aging in reverse. After his mother dies during childbirth, he is abandoned by his father and raised by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) in a nursing home. This turns out to be the perfect place for him as his mind grows and his body starts to develop, albeit backwards.
Eventually, he moves out and joins the world where no one knows what’s happening to him. So there are big portions of the film that don’t deal with his situation and instead just deal with life. This is where the film starts to drag and Fincher would have been better served to touch on the theme of the film in every section of the movie, not just the beginning and end.
Along the way, he meets and falls in love with Daisy (Cate Blanchett) and they form a lifelong bond that is as complicated as it is sweet. Oddly enough, the movie really excels when we don’t have the “normal” Brad Pitt. The most interesting scenes are when he’s older and covered in makeup. Likewise, the most powerful scenes are when he’s very young. But the biggest factor in making this film an emotional juggernaut is the great performance by Cate Blanchett. She serves as the controlled variable to Pitt’s Button and her age progression allows us to compare the impact of Button’s predicament.
If there’s a problem with Button, it centers on the unexplored themes. For example, it was never acknowledged that Benjamin knew when he was going to die. I would imagine that this knowledge would weigh heavily on you. It also missed the mark on the relationship between the mind not being able to keep up with the youthfulness of the body. In our world, its right the opposite and any elderly individual will tell you that it’s hard to accept that your body can’t do things your mind wants. So I would imagine the reverse would be just as frustrating.
But despite the few marks that were missed, Button still turns out to be a powerful and enjoyable film. Pitt and Blanchett give superior performances and it tugs just enough at your heartstrings to make the film stick in your mind long after you finish watching it. So if you can make it through some of the dry spells and explore some of the deeper themes on your own, I think you’ll enjoy the CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.