The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Film Review by Jeffrey Winters

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” is a lavish and thought provoking story which requires an audience’s suspension of disbelief. The film begins with the birth of Benjamin Button played by Brad Pitt. His mother dies in childbirth and the baby is born looking like a frail eighty year old man/infant. Benjamin’s father looks at his newborn son with disgust and fear, and races off to a New Orleans nursing-home where he leaves his son on the steps of African American Queenie (Taraji P. Henson). She takes the infant in and becomes his loving mother.

This is the story of a human being who ages backwards. Benjamin begins life as an infant in an old man’s body. As he ages in calendar time, his body becomes younger. We watch Benjamin slowly transform from an old man through the stages of manhood, adolescence and back to infancy. Director David Fincher shows this reversal of human aging, by using extraordinary makeup and special effects (CGI). When he is a child they superimpose Pitt’s aged face on a smaller body. Benjamin looks shorter than everyone around him. With unemotional irony, Benjamin’s start in life as an infant with an aged body is immediately accepted because the folks in the nursing home are all old and indifferent to this weird flux in reality.

One day in the nursing-home he meets young Daisy while she is visiting her grandmother. Daisy is later played by Cate Blanchett. They immediately feel a love that is magical and not understood by either. This begins a love story full of unique obstacles to overcome before they can unite with their bodies, minds, and hearts. In essence they have to fight the clock, one person going forward, the other going backward to a time when their age and body maturity are in sync and harmony. And you thought marriage was difficult?

Daisy (Cate Blanchett) becomes a ballet celebrity dancing for George Balanchine in New York. Benjamin (Pitt) works on a tug boat before and during World War II. Both lead unique lives that meander back and forth until that enchanted time when their transformations allow them to love one another.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” is an expansive story derived from a 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. The film has the potential for being a huge hit and artistic achievement. Yet, it doesn’t quite accomplish that rare film status because of a serious flaw in the telling of the story. Most noticeable is the lack of tight and fluid editing. The film goes on for two hours and forty eight minutes, with repetition in the last half that dilutes our empathy for the characters.

Brad Pitt plays the role of Benjamin with a quiet and internal expressiveness rather then using his charisma and bravado as he gets older and his body younger. His character is an observer of life and death. Cate Blanchett is one of the greatest actresses in film today. She captures the young ballet dancer and the wise elderly woman with grace and compassion. Watching Bradd Pitt and Cate Blanchett act together is the highlight of the film.

This story is very textured and invites reflection and discussion for days. “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button” is an important attempt to capture the complexity of birth, death, aging, and love.