Director: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson
Storyline: An old woman on her deathbed tells her daughter about the man who was born old and aged in reverse.
Bottomline: You will grow old watching Button grow young.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a curious case indeed. Why did they make this movie? Did Brad Pitt really believe the Academy would hand him a statuette without him having to act mentally ill, gay or African American? Or without him having to act period? Or did he think the period piece along would suffice? Or did the writers think that borrowing elements from Titanic and Forrest Gump would crack it for them?
Benjamin Button opens pretty much like Titanic. A woman who’s so old that she looks like someone who survived the sinking. Well, she’s on her death-bed and wants her daughter to read out a journal.
Fincher cuts from a naturalistic, realistic looking hospital set to a surreal world where a clock built in reverse marks the birth of a baby that seems to age in reverse. Born almost dead, the baby is hideously old and ugly, blind with cataracts in both eyes, arthritis etc. that the father is convinced it is evil. He abandons it in front of a nursing home and the story is told through Brad Pitt’s voiceover that makes you believe you’re watching Forrest Gump aging in reverse.
More so when the young old man fondly refers to his foster mother (a brilliant every-bit-Oscar-nomination-deserving Taraji P. Henson) as Mama. If Forrest’s Mama told him ‘Life’s a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get,’ Button’s Mama tells him ‘You never know what’s comin’ for you’.
So Button moves through life in America pretty much like Forrest did – he first wears leg braces, learns to walk/run, fights the World War, buys his own boat, forever keeps writing to his girl, waiting for her to come back into his life. If Forrest Gump had a mentor in Benjamin Bubba, Benjamin Button has Captain Mike to get him laid. Like Forrest’s girl Jenny who left town to become a hippie, Ben’s girl Daisy (Cate Blanchett) has left home to become a dancer. Like Forrest, he finally wins her over and late into the film, we find out they have a kid.
It’s easier to tell the story of Ben Button by telling you what’s different from Forrest Gump. The most obvious one: Ben ages in reverse. Here, he has an affair with a married woman (Tilda Swinton). While a floating feather acts as a metaphor for Forrest Gump’s life, here a humming-bird acts as the motif for Ben.
That said, Benjamin Button, though slow, is an entertaining film you can watch for its concept, faux philosophy and Brad Pitt.
He has very little to do, with make up and visual effects taking care of most of his work – to look old. Nevertheless, he shines with understatement and the ladies are sure to swoon and faint watching him dash off on a motorcycle. Be warned though, the handsome Pitt lasts barely ten minutes of a really long film. Even Cate Blanchett looks ravishing and we know how rarely that happens.
The film has some genuinely sincere moments thanks to Fincher’s unique touch and flair for storytelling. Sample the sequence Ben narrates a series of happenings that led to Daisy’s accident. Wow! No doubt this film spanning decades is painstakingly put-together, well detailed and meticulously directed as the filmmaker manages to take the most bizarre story and give it a semblance of plausibility with its emotional core. The last act of the film is fittingly poignant and that alone would merit it a watch.
But then, a few scenes of brilliance alone don’t make a movie win a bagful of Oscars. A little less than three hours long, Benjamin Button will make you age quite a bit. But hey, watch it for Brad.