The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

          Apparently “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” has polarized movielovers. So be it. I loved it. Everyone connected with this movie deserves a tip of our collective hat. To the filmmakers for their willingness to tackle an immensely complex idea; to the actors who must perform within the intricate framework built for them; and to the special effects people who create one startling sight after another. They are artists of the new form. 

          If this film has flaws, and it does, they are barely worth mentioning because they are made in the course of reaching for the impossible. The machinery has to bump and grind now and then; when it does, the momentum breaks for just a moment and we are reminded of what a strange and wonderful journey we are on. This movie is an old fashioned southern story whose rhythms are absolutely different from ours in the north. If you go, leave your jaded self at home and let the story soak you up. It is long, but it will absorb you if you let it. 

          Benjamin (Brad Pitt) is born with the wizened face and body of an old man. His horrified father leaves him on the steps of an old people’s home where a young caretaker, Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), takes him in. Benjamin grows younger among the old; as they speed in opposite directions toward death, both old and young lose the short lived clarity of middle-age. 

          We are prodded to think about the fleeting nature of lust, the ravages of age on the brain for some, clear memories in broken bodies for others, the lasting nature of genuine love, the deep root of home. All of this is explored in the rhythm I think of as Southern Slow - in the loveliest sense of the phrase. The reason these people are so affecting is that we have come to know them gradually. 

          Benjamin grows young as a tugboat man at sea, the perfect place for him to shed his years away from the public gaze. His core memory is Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who visited her grandmother at Benjamin’s home with Queenie. As Daisy ages and Benjamin grows young, they meet for the perfect life at one point before passing in different directions. They sail, make love, dance, and sing; not a soul watching can miss the truth that the moment of a perfect life is simply a feather floating to the ground. The sight of these two beautiful souls meeting for that moment is a graphic punch to the gut that screams out that none of us can, or should ever try, to extend any given instant. 

          Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Taraji P. Henson simply break our hearts. The score, the photography, the special effects, and David Fincher’s direction all blend to allow us to sink into this beautiful southern confection that brings us not sugar, but the stuff of life.

 


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