I am astounded.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt, is by far one of the best movie I have seen in a long time. I went into the movie theater, alone I might add and in a town occupying less people than that of a large sky-scraper, expecting a good film and came out wanting it to never end.
David Fincher struck gold directing one of 2008’s best films. When I said Brad Pitt needed to redeem himself in this movie after the disastrous “Burn After Reading”, oh boy, he did.
As most of us all know, this is the tale of a boy, Benjamin Button, who is born the size of a newborn, but with the health of an 80-year-old man. His mother unfortunately passes away moments after surgery and his father sees him as nothing more than a monster and puts him on the step of a random house. The doctors don’t give him much time to live, but soon the people around him deem him as a gift of God that just hasn’t been given his plan, yet. Benjamin eventually begins walking with arm braces, a cane and then on his own after a while and a young girl named Daisy, age 7 (Elle Fanning), comes to the manor to visit her grandmother. Benjamin writes in his journal (which is narrated by him through the film) that he thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen the first time he’d seen her blue eyes. Daisy’s grandmother thinks Benjamin is shameful for wanting to spend time with a little girl, but Daisy realizes that he’s special and takes an interest in him. She visits again when she’s 10 (played by Madisen Beaty) but then he doesn’t see her again until she has “become a woman” in his eyes. At this moment, he is in the body of a would-be 54 year-old and Daisy notices the difference and is captivated by this extraordinary man. Cate Blanchett plays the older character of Daisy. She tries to make a night out of things after they go to dinner, but Button refuses her forward attempts and says “not tonight.” Rejected, she leaves and Button decides to leave home for a while to see the world. He gets a job with Captain Mike (Jarred Harris) on a tugboat and when Pearl Harbor happens, their boat collides with a Japanese submarine ship that recently attacked an American ship. Many of his friends either pass or get injured, so he returns home to his Mama and works around the manor while he continues to age backward. He decides to take a trip to New York to “sweep Daisy off her feet” but gets rejected and when he flies to Paris to take her home with him after she gets hit by a car and can’t dance anymore, she tells him to stay out of her life. Heartbroken, he stays for a few days to make sure she is alright and then goes back to Mama’s house. He admits to having a girl or two…or three and then in 1962 (I think), Daisy shows back up at the manor.
One of my favorite moments in the movie is where she says, “Sleep with me.” And he says, “Absolutely.” I would say that they grow old together and live happily ever after, but it’s not that kind of movie. They, of course, fall in love, buy a duplex together, she gets pregnant and then…conflict. He’s worried about his child having a proper father that can grow old and watch their child age. Daisy tells him not to worry and that loving him is enough for her, but he knows that the child needs a proper father and leaves after her first birthday in the middle of the night, so that they can lead a normal life with a father that she will remember. He goes to India and lives for as long as he can as the moments gather in his journal: Each year sending a postcard to his daughter saying how he wishes he could walk her to school, hold her tight when a boy breaks her heart and be her father. (This broke my heart…yes…I teared up.) There are SO many more details to this 159 minute film, but I don’t want to give TOO much away. Haha. One thing that he said at the end, though, is that it is never too late, or too soon in his case, to change the direction that you’re going.
Brad Pitt was absolutely remarkable. He was so believable as an older man and the make-up artists did a fantastic job both making him look 80 as well as 16. He looked as young as he did in Thelma and Louise in 1991 at the end of this film, 17 years later, and he’s in his 40s now. I guess he’s aged well. Cate Blanchett also did an amazing job, as usual. This is one of the best performances I have seen from her.
Unfortunately, I don’t really have much criticism for this film on account of that I liked it so much. It is a film that I will buy and think about for a long time. The message it sends to its audience is that no matter what you want to be, it’s never too late to do it. Live each day as if you’re living in moments, not minutes. Treat your life as if time doesn’t matter. The only things that do matter are the people you meet and the opportunities that you take.
Some things last. The movie ends leaving the audience, not depressed or sad that this man has aged backward leaving his loved ones having to watch him decay, because as Daisy says, “we all end up in diapers,” but it leaves the audience with hope. There is hope because people don’t stay perfect forever. Either way, you age, backward or forward and either way, you find love, you lose love and you end up needing to be taken care of. It’s not unfortunate that he was born old and aged young, it was extraordinary.