The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by Laura Tucker
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Suppose life moved backwards. Not as if you ran the film of your life backwards, but the exact opposite of how it should. Imagine having the vitality of a 65 year old man, yet with the sensibility of a 15-year-old adolescent, or imagine having the excitement of a 20-year-old with the knowledge of a 60-year-old man. These are the thoughts that course through our minds watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Brad Pitt stars as the title character, beginning life as an infant whose own father considers him a monster because of his grotesque appearance with the wrinkled skin of an octogenarian. Abandoned, he’s taken in by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), the maid at a retirement home. His appearance fits in quite well at the home, with the others not considering him as beastly as his father did.
Pitt does a great job acting with just his face. Despite having heavy make up to make him look aged, we can see his face peering through, specifically his identifiable lips. We see through the face the wonderment of a child, even though it’s coming through a cragged, aged face, although some of that is quite possibly his natural Oklahoman charm that’s hard to disguise.
Benjamin has a unique life there with Queenie whom he calls mom and her common law husband, Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), and learns about life through all the tenants at the home, as they come and go, usually by dying. He falls in love with a younger girl, Daisy (Elle Fanning, and later Madisen Beaty, and still later Cate Blanchett) who comes to stay every so often with her grandmother, saying he’ll never forget her blue eyes.
As he starts to age, Benjamin realizes his body is beginning to look and feel younger. He goes from wheelchair-bound, to needing crutches, to walking, and his sparse hair gets thicker and thicker, and grows in other places as well. He ventures out on his own, having all sorts of adventures, promising to write Daisy every place he ends up, and does.
The story is told as a woman (Julia Ormond) reads it to her dying mother in a hospital. The dying mother is Daisy. Once we’re introduced to Daisy in the story, the woman begins to figure it out fairly quickly, as do we. Unlike the transformation of Benjamin, where we can always see through to see that it’s Brad Pitt’s face, Cate Blanchett is quite unrecognizable under all that makeup.
The whole story makes you think so much about the cycle of life, creation, and why it is the way it is. Overall, the one thing it exposes is that it doesn’t matter how you age, whether it’s by getting older or getting younger, but that you do it along with everyone else. Growing up is hard, whether you’re a young person or an old person, falling in love is beautiful, whether you’re young or just young at heart, and dying is always hard, whether you die as a baby or die as an old person.
The DVD for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had some very interesting commentary along with it, but I wished it was separated from the movie. Instead, it overlays a second viewing of the movie, and no matter how much I like a movie, I really don’t want to sit through it a second time, especially when the movie is two hours and forty-five minutes long. Trying to sit through it a second time, I could almost see myself aging.
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.
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