Anthony's Film Review
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
This film tells an interesting life story with a unique twist...
There is a certain type of film that I often consider fascinating: a film whose story revolves around a single twist to reality. You can find plenty of examples in comedy and drama. For example, Groundhog Day puts Bill Murray in a time warp where February 2nd repeats itself, and Pleasantville teleports Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon into a 1950s TV show. I like these kinds of movies for three reasons. One, they can tell new stories that cannot be set in 100% reality. Two, they can teach a new lesson or reinforce old principles in clever ways. And three, there is virtually no limit to the kinds of stories one can tell just by breaking from reality.
This was the mindset I assumed when I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It, too, has a twist to reality. The title character is someone with a reversed aging process, born as an old man and getting younger until his final days as a newborn. I initially expected the movie to explore this unusual character and give us something insightful to take away. If a film is going to revolve around a twist to reality, there should be a reason.
The beginning of the film does hint at the origin of Benjamin Button's retrograde life cycle. There is a brief flashback of a man who, after losing his son in World War I, builds a large train station clock that runs backwards. Afterwards, the film proceeds to the main story, also presented as a flashback. Benjamin is born, as an elderly-looking baby, to a mother who dies during childbirth and a father who abandons him after seeing his face. The one who takes care of Benjamin is an African-American woman who runs a retirement home. It's an interesting place for him, because he can fit right in during his first several years of life.
This is a good time to mention the star, Brad Pitt. When you see Benjamin in his early but very elderly years, it really is Brad Pitt's face underneath all of those wrinkles. The actor is remarkable in assuming the appearance and mannerisms of a certain age in life, and he does this from Benjamin's elderly years all the way to the character's late adolescent years. In the second half of the film, Cate Blanchett, who plays Benjamin's love interest Daisy, also acts as someone her own age and beyond. They are both amazing in this film.
As for the story, it's nothing more than a series of vignettes of Benjamin's life, including moments in the retirement home, a job on a tugboat, an affair with a married woman, and romance with Daisy. All of it was engaging enough to watch. Beyond that, it's hard to find something extraordinary about the film. There were several things I wanted to see more of, such as Benjamin's conflict with his mismatching physical and mental development and how his perspective of the world may be similar or different from everyone else's. A lot of times, I felt like watching a standard cinematic life story with the events presented in reverse chronological order. More importantly, I wanted the story to have some kind of moving and unforgettable message, but I left the theater without one.
Despite these shortcomings, which prevent me from giving the film my highest rating, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a good film to watch. The story was interesting, especially during the last half hour. And by the end, I grew to love the character of Benjamin Button. If you put aside his strange characteristics, he is like all of us, going through life one day at a time.
For more information about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, visit the Internet Movie Database.