If there is one thing I have learned from the events of 2008, there is no stopping time. Having watched the passing of 2 grandparents and the birth and development of my nephew all in the same year shows you time's diligence and power. That could be one of many themes in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I finally had the chance to see today...
You know the story. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born an infant with all the signs and limitations of old age and, as time progresses, he grows younger as those around him grow older. Inside, however, he ages in the same direction as everyone else. The only main difference could be that, as someone extremely different, he is more sensitive to those around him.
There are striking similarities to Forrest Gump, not the least is which that the screenwriter is the same for both films. Both movies have an epic feel to them. Both movies have profound stories. Both films have similar characters: Benjamin=Forrest, Queenie=Mama, Daisy=Jenny, Capt. Mike=Lt. Dan... Benjamin has less comedy and the production design is staggeringly beautiful.
The story is told in flashback as an aging Daisy (Cate Blanchett) lays dying in a New Orleans hospital hours before Hurricane Katrina descends on the city. Her daughter, Caroline (Julia Ormond,) reads Benjamin's journal to Daisy and we are invited to witness his curious birth and his life that follows.
There's no denying that, at 2 hours and 47 minutes, the movie is long. But it is a lovely film with an old-fashioned pace. By its conclusion you are left pondering the meaning of time, age, maturity, and love in relation to those uncontrollable things. I found myself looking at others a little differently when the movie ended and we made our way through the herd of people leaving the theater. When I was waiting for my mom for a moment I looked up and saw an elderly lady with a walker and, for an instant, I saw the younger version of that lady buried beneath the older exterior. So often we look at someone for the first time and see only what is in front of us, never considering the journey that life has taken that person on before that moment.
The film isn't without its flaws. I wish that the character of Daisy was a little more consistent. At first she is moody and you aren't sure how to feel about her, but over time she mellows and you see her devotion and sincerity. The Capt. Mike character speaks with an accent that is very hard to understand. But the imperfections are minor. The actress who plays Queenie (Taraji P. Henson,) Benjamin's adopted mother, is especially good and worthy of a Supporting Actress nomination.
And, although it is easy to get caught up in the look of Benjamin at the beginning of the film and say "How did they do that?" again and again, Brad Pitt's performance transcends all of the movie magic to make his character very real and sympathetic.
When all is said and done, I would highly recommend this film. Leave the little ones at home because they will get squirmy, but treat yourself and see it.