"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Review

Title: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett
Studio: Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG-13 (For brief war violence, sexual content, language and smoking)

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a curious film. Very curious indeed. And that’s not supposed to be a bad pun, I’m being totally serious. I wonder who came up with an idea as crazy as this. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was originally a short story that seems to have been forgotten over time, but has now been made into a two hour and fifty-seven minute film with big stars and gorgeous special effects. The movie revolves around Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a man who was born under unusual circumstances. He was abandoned at the doorstep of an old folks home run by black people in the early 1900's. When found he is an old as a man in his late eighties, though he’s the mere size of a newborn baby. The homeowner Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) takes in the newborn, fully prepared he might not last very long. 

He does, but much to the astonishment of everyone else, he actually grows younger with age and not older. Growing younger he develops a crush on the young and charming Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who goes through her own growing pains (think that rebellious child who makes some poor choices). Along the way Benjamin meets lots of interesting people. Some are fully fleshed out humans, some are caricatures, most are interesting. The movie is not interested solely in the gimmick though, it’s more interested in how everyone REACTS to the gimmick! A powerful scene is when a young Benjamin Button, looking old and frail at the ripe age of 7, looks upon a funeral of one of the old folks in the house. He gets so used to death he doesn’t ponder it. It’s not until one woman teaches him the meaning of death where he takes a closer look when she dies.

He’s almost humbled by the site of her dead, realizing he looks just like her, and that life is too precious to waste. The older/younger he gets, the more he’s determined not to waste life, and travels the world. He lives through World War II, the Hippie Movement, among other things, but the movie doesn’t play too much on these. Instead it plays on the fact that Benjamin does not belong in this world. He finds himself unable to relate to most of the events in the world, and his unique birth has made him mature beyond his years. The only person he can relate to is Daisy, who is one of the few people to accept him for who he is without much question. For all the pondering on the meaning of life and such though, it’s interesting to note that Benjamin Button himself is not a very compelling character.
His birth is interesting, and his reactions seem about as realistic as they can, but he’s not a very interesting case study. Interesting case study maybe, but not interesting character. No, his purpose, like Oliver Twist I suppose, is to react to things around him. The fact that we rarely get emotionally attached to him yet are still engrossed in the film should be credited to director David Fincher, a director known mainly for glorified slasher films (“Se7en,” “Zodiac”). His experience with special effects and storytelling is on full display here, making Brad Pitt look as old as 80 and as young as 20 without ever pulling the audience out of the illusion. There is one scene where Benjamin walks back into Daisies life after many a years absence. I found myself shocked to find Pitt looking exactly like he did in “A River Runs Through It,” a film he made almost twenty years earlier.

This emotional weight is from seeing an actor grow and mature over the years, and then to pull him back to when he was still immature left an emotional weight on me I won’t soon forget. This movie single-handedly shows why “stars” are so important for films of this caliber, as no unknown actor could have caused the same reaction in this scene. Recommending the movie is a bit of a tricky thing though as it’s not something you really watch over and over again. It’s a fascinating story to be sure, but considering the lead character is somewhat of a bore doesn’t help. Still, the movie is an emotional and engaging experiment that might not always work, but certainly leaves an impression on you.

Parents, there is some language, war violence and sexual images in this film. Recommended for ages 14 and up.