Compelling story, heart found in Strange Case

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A scene from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Gazette File Photo

MAN, WHEN I HIT MIDDLE AGE I AM GOING TO BE TOTALLY RIPPED. As the titular Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt ages in reverse in the film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond

4.5 stars

No one likes to get old. But what if the opposite were happening? What if you were getting younger day by day? What if you started off life old and died as an infant?

Caroline (Ormond) learns and discovers the curious case of Benjamin Button (Pitt) as she reads Button’s diary to her ailing mother on her deathbed. Button, who was born as a baby with the features and diseases of a 70-year-old man whether by miracle or by some twist of fate, defies all odds and lives, grows up and ages backwards.

The story follows Benjamin, in the retirement home he was abandoned at, watching people grow old and discovering he is very different from the rest of elderly living there. Benjamin meets Daisy (Blanchett) and their romance begins despite him being in his “sixties” and her about to enter her adolescent days.

While the audience is fascinated at how Benjamin continues to grow younger as he goes out to work on the sea, take part in World War II and become a rich tycoon, Daisy’s aging makes this film a heart-breaking tragedy. Part of the movie’s fascination is how Benjamin’s aging is unnatural and, well, wrong. Benjamin defies all the normality that we have grown accustomed to, growing mentally younger as he ages older.

A rich love spills out between Benjamin and Daisy as they meet time after time at different ages, until they cross roads at middle age. Daisy is more than aware that Benjamin is aging “younger,” while she feels the aches and pains of growing older. This exists as the one flaw to their perfect love " it is shadowed by disappointment and fated to end.

While Benjamin Button keeps the title and basic premise of Fitzgerald’s short story, the film does not keep the same setting of 19th century Baltimore, instead using a more contemporary 20th century New Orleans.

Fincher and writer Eric Roth make a smart decision with this change, as the film wonderfully weaves the magic and reminiscence of the 20th century with this supernatural phenomenon. Fincher ties the film off with the reality of death and time " making the audience question whether The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was true or not.

Fincher also keeps the film’s cinematography continually breathtaking. With rich scenes, careful lighting and focus on Pitt and Blanchett, the film is subtly yet beautifully filmed. It will be no surprise if this film wins Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Despite its offbeat premise and epic length of 166 minutes, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will have you watching in curiosity as Benjamin grows younger and younger, while the rest of us continue normally in time.

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