The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
A moving look at a life well-lived
Having knocked around Hollywood for more than a decade and once garnering the attention of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button finally arrives on the big screen, courtesy of director David Fincher. The filmmaker responsible for such disturbing modern classics as Seven and Fight Club might seem a strange choice for an odd love story, but he’s always been a capable visual craftsman, creating moments of existential dread and social chaos as well as any other modern director. Here, he achieves a sense of grace through weaving this tale of a man who ages backwards as time moves forward, giving us a modern fairy tale that’s a testament to unconditional love and faith.
Taking only the title and premise from the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, the film opens at the end of World War I, with a most unusual birth. Thomas Button (Jason Flyming) and his wife welcome a child who, though normal in size, appears to be 80 years old. Ashamed and concerned about how such an arrival would impact his social standing, the new father leaves the child on the doorstep of a boarding house for the elderly. Queenie (Taraji Henson), who works at the home, takes in the child, calls him Benjamin and raises him as best she can, as the little one finds himself oddly at home with the seniors he spends time with. As Benjamin gets younger, a blind eye is turned to his situation as his body gets stronger instead of more frail and his mind gets sharper instead of fading away. His companions die, he becomes more curious and along the way he meets Daisy, a young girl with whom he sparks an unusual, decades-long relationship.
The film’s premise lends itself to an epic treatment that Fincher realizes with broad as well as intimate strokes. Benjamin does time with a merchant marine ship during World War II, travels to Russia and deals with the social upheaval that occurs during the post-war years as well as during the ’60s. All the while he grows younger while the love of his life, Daisy, grows older and they embark on a love affair that remarkably stands the test of time.
Conveying complex emotions as an elderly man awakening to life, as well as a
young man grappling with his experiences slipping away, Brad Pitt delivers a
profoundly moving turn. Cate Blanchett, who plays Daisy from her teen years to
old age, ably matches him and they form one of the oddest romantic pairs in
In the end, the theme of the film is hardly groundbreaking, as its message of living life to the fullest is as old as the hills. We stand at many crossroads during our lifetime and while Benjamin’s life seems finite and determined, he is in full control of the opportunities he takes and how his time on earth is to be filled. Our time here is far too short, but not so brief that we cannot live, love and do good while we are here. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button sincerely reminds us of this in a profound, moving and at times humorous way. It is easily one of the best films of the year.