The Curious Case of Benjamin Button so uniquely approaches its subject of life and death that one can’t help but ponder its themes of love, existence, and mortality. Director David Fincher’s latest garners an epic feel, not from its rather lengthy runtime, but from spectacular storytelling and intricate character development – or perhaps undevelopment. A slight loss for affecting drama and a few borrowed elements from notable predecessors can’t detract from the amazing journey at hand, one brilliantly entertaining and curious indeed.
As Daisy (Cate Blanchett) lies dying in a New Orleans hospital, she has her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) read to her from a mysterious diary that chronicles the peculiar life of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Born as an old man, Button steadily grows younger as everyone around him grows older, and a majestic tale unfolds, one filled with adventure, intrigue, and an epic romance that transcends the restrictions of time.
It’s a meditation on life, death, time, fate, forgiveness, love and every emotional experience in between; most often it’s beautiful, melancholy, romantic and saddening, but ultimately it suffers from the futility of a predestined course. Although it borrows memorable elements from Titanic (narration by an older character reminiscing on the past) and Forrest Gump (a hummingbird replaces the CG feather, and Cate Blanchett’s Daisy mirrors Robin Wright’s Jenny, most noticeably in her acceptance of Button only after numerous experimentations in love), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button doesn’t suffer from unoriginality. It is exciting, dramatic, epic and refreshing; it may be flawed, especially from a lengthy running time, but still manages to be one of the more impressive films of the year.
The tagline reads: “Life isn’t measured in minutes, but in moments.” Although the film doesn’t exceed at any one element, with its lengthy running time it does include moments for everyone. Falling slightly short in the affecting drama expected of its epic scope, Button still beautifully showcases romance with the constant gaining and losing of Daisy; action at sea with the patriotic Captain Mike (who is also reminiscent of a Forrest Gump character: Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan); and comedy relief aplenty, most memorably from a man who was struck by lightning seven times. The film’s focus is mainly about the events and characters that affect Benjamin, as opposed to his own influences; he is an observer of his own existence (thereby decreasing the potency of Pitt’s performance, but perhaps increasing its refreshing subtlety). The importance of life and death, the experiences of growing up, and discovering sexuality and love are all viewed in a new, backwards perspective (frequently discouraging for Button – “some creatures aren’t meant to survive”), which gives an entertaining twist to the majority of events which would otherwise be unceremoniously routine.
– The Massie Twins (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com)